CIBO Certified Crop Advisor Pathway:
Nutrient Management Planning: An Overview
November 17, 2014
Programs such as the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Nutrient Management Act in Pennsylvania have focused attention on improving nutrient management on Commonwealth farms.
The environmental problems associated with nutrients most often are caused by animal manure. Applying manure in excess of crop needs or at the wrong time, or handling it improperly may release nutrients into the air or water, where they no longer contribute to crop production and may act as pollutants. The leaching of nitrogen through the soil can raise groundwater nitrate levels. In addition, runoff and erosion may increase nitrogen and phosphorus levels in surface waters, which can lead to eutrophication and related problems such as algae scums, odors, and loss of fish populations. Good nutrient management planning can help to avoid some of these problems.
Nutrient management plans are not new. All farmers have a plan for using the manure produced by their animals. In many cases, however, this plan is very informal and ad- dresses only manure disposal and possibly the crop response to the manure nutrients; environmental concerns usually are not addressed. Changing regulations now require farmers to implement more formal nutrient management plans that address environmental issues.
A basic nutrient management plan includes the following:
While all manure nutrient management plans should contain these basic plan elements, the actual plans themselves will take on many forms.
A nutrient management plan can be written with paper and a pencil or developed with computer software. The key concept is that the plan allocates the available manure nutrients in a way that maximizes the economic benefit of the nutrients while minimizing their environmental impact. The basic steps in developing a nutrient management plan are as follows.
* See the current Penn State Agronomy Guide for details.
Table 1: Factors involved in field prioritization for manure applications.
This has been a brief introduction to the key concepts of farm nutrient management planning. Successful implementation of nutrient management policy will involve full participation of a broad range of key stakeholders, including farmers, the allied agriculture industry, allied public agencies, policy makers, regulators, environmental groups, and the consuming public. The following are some useful sources of assistance and information about nutrient management.
Technical assistance and Local Nutrient Management Program administration
Educational programs and materials on nutrient management
Nutrient management certification and financial assistance programs
Other environmental quality programs in the state
Technical assistance on choosing and installing nutrient management and soil conservation BMPs
These are other primary sources of information for developing a nutrient management plan. The Field Office Technical Guide is the primary source of information about manure management and conservation BMPs.
Development of nutrient management plans and plan implementation assistance
Prepared by Douglas Beegle, professor of agronomy, Penn State
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