Phosphorus (P) in rivers in the Mississippi River basin (MRB) contributes to hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico and impairs local water quality. We analyzed the spatial pattern of P in the MRB to determine the counties with the greatest January to June P riverine yields and the most critical factors related to this P loss. Using a database of P inputs and landscape characteristics from 1997 through 2006 for each county in the MRB, we created regression models relating riverine total P (TP), dissolved reactive P (DRP), and particulate P (PP) yields for watersheds within the MRB to these factors. Riverine yields of P were estimated from the average concentration of each form of P during January to June for the 10-yr period, multiplied by the average daily flow, and then summed for the 6-mo period. The fraction of land planted in crops, human consumption of P, and precipitation were found to best predict TP yields with a spatial error regression model ( = 0.48, = 101). Dissolved reactive P yields were predicted by fertilizer P inputs, human consumption of P, and precipitation in a multiple regression model ( = 0.42, = 73), whereas PP yields were explained by crop fraction, human consumption of P, and soil bulk density in a spatial error regression model ( = 0.49, = 61). Overall, the Upper Midwest's Cornbelt region and lower Mississippi basin had the counties with the greatest P yields. These results help to point out specific areas where agricultural conservation practices that reduce losses to streams and rivers and point source P removal might limit the intensity or spatial occurrence of Gulf of Mexico hypoxia and improve local water quality.
American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America.