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Cotton production, compared with other crops, is less likely to cause erosion-induced water-quality problems because cotton acreage is not the major source of erosion in most regions. For cotton production, the most widespread potential damages to water quality are from nitrates in fertilizer polluting ground water and pesticides contaminating surface water. This damage could be reduced by restricting chemical and fertilizer use on all cotton production, but doing so could reduce cotton yields and raise cotton prices. The same level of water quality improvement could be achieved at less cost by targeting the chemical use or erosion restrictions only to cotton farms with the most vulnerable soils. Data come from a 1989 USDA survey of cotton producers.


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