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Nutrient management plans

Health Factors: Air & Water Quality
Decision Makers: Educators Employers & Businesses Local Government State Government Federal Government
Evidence Rating: Scientifically Supported
Population Reach: 20-49% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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Description

Nutrient management plans for crop production match nutrient applications to crop needs, reducing commercial fertilizer use while maintaining and in some cases enhancing soil productivity and crop yields. Plans focus primarily on nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). Nutrient management plans are site specific and typically include agricultural best management practices (BMPs) such as testing soil and manure, using conservation tillage or other soil erosion control measures, and applying fertilizer when nutrients are most needed (US EPA-Nutrient management, USDA-NAL definitions). Comprehensive nutrient management plans for animal production focus primarily on manure management for nutrients and pathogens, and are federally required for confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and animal feeding operations (AFOs) that discharge manure or wastewater into ditches, streams, or other waterways (USDA-NRCS AFOs).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Reduced run-off
Improved water quality

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that nutrient management plans that use agricultural best management practices (BMPs) reduce nutrient run-off at the field scale (Maguire 2008, Delgado 2005, Bishop 2005, Sharpley 2009); plan effectiveness can vary with site specifics and the methods or combinations of practices used (Gitau 2005, Olson 2011). Collaborative efforts to implement nutrient management plans across an entire watershed are a suggested strategy to reduce nutrient pollution and improve water quality at the watershed scale (US EPA-NP solutions). 

Nutrient management plans used to focus on nitrogen (N) run-off because of the severe problems caused by nitrate contamination in ground water, and now also target phosphorus (P). N and P both contribute to poor surface water quality conditions including algae blooms, eutrophication, and potential hypoxia (US EPA-Nutrient management, US EPA-NP, Maguire 2008). Surveys suggest that farmers with nutrient management plans apply less total N and P than farmers without plans; however, due to variation among plans, some farmers still appear to over-apply N or P (Shepard 2005).

Successful nutrient management plans require setting an overall strategy with on-going adjustments to implementation tactics and day-to-day operations as needed. Successful government policies to support nutrient management plans involve many stakeholders, target environmentally sensitive areas, develop clear and achievable objectives, and may use regulation, education, or financial incentives to encourage implementation (Beegle 2000).

Nutrient management plans can reduce farming costs by reducing fertilizer costs and increasing the efficiency of nutrient use (MN DA-Nutrient management). In some cases, nutrient management plans have been associated with increases in net farm income (VanDyke 1999, Bronson 2006Velandia 2008).

Implementation

United States

Some states have passed regulations supporting nutrient management plans (e.g., Massachusetts (CAFE-NBMPs) and Pennsylvania (PennFUTURE 2011)). Others administer nutrient management programs (e.g., Maryland (MD DA-Nutrient management) and Wisconsin (WI DATCP-Nutrient management)), or offer resources, incentives, and information to encourage adoption of plans and other best management practices, for example, Minnesota (MN DA-Nutrient management) and Virginia (VA DCR-VACS 2013).

The American Farmland Trust (AFT) is a national organization that helps farmers improve conservation efforts. AFT also runs the BMP challenge guaranteeing against any potential income loss for farmers who reduce fertilizer use or use conservation tillage practices (AFT).

Wisconsin

According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (WI DATCP) more than 25%, over 9 million acres, of Wisconsin’s cropland uses nutrient management plans (WI DATCP-Nutrient management). Specific tools and resources are also available to assist farmers developing comprehensive nutrient management plans and nutrient management plans in Wisconsin (USDA-NRCS WI CNMPs).

Implementation Resources

Cornell Cropware 2.0 - Ketterings Q, Rasmussen C, Albrecht G, et al. Nutrient management spear program (NMSP): Cornell cropware 2.0 help. 2003. Accessed on March 1, 2016
MSU Ext-Nutrient management - Mississippi State University Extension Service (MSU Ext). Nutrient management. Accessed on March 1, 2016
NC State-Nutrient management - Crouse D. Nutrient management in North Carolina. North Carolina State University (NC State). Accessed on March 1, 2016
Rutgers-Murphy 2010 - Murphy JA, Murphy SL. Best management practices for nutrient management of turf in New Jersey. Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Bulletin E327; 2010. Accessed on March 1, 2016

Citations - Description

US EPA-Nutrient management - US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Agriculture: Nutrient management and fertilizer. Accessed on March 29, 2016
USDA-NAL definitions - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Agricultural Library (NAL). Alternative farming systems information center publications: Sustainable agriculture definitions and terms. Accessed on March 1, 2016
USDA-NRCS AFOs - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Animal feeding operations (AFOs). Accessed on February 20, 2017

Citations - Evidence

Beegle 2000* - Beegle DB, Carton OT, Bailey JS. Nutrient management planning: Justification, theory, practice. Journal of Environmental Quality. 2000;29(1):72-79. Accessed on March 1, 2016
Bishop 2005* - Bishop PL, Hively WD, Stedinger JR, et al. Multivariate analysis of paired watershed data to evaluate agricultural best management practice effects on stream water phosphorus. Journal of Environmental Quality. 2005;34(3):1087-101. Accessed on March 1, 2016
Bronson 2006* - Bronson KF, Booker JD, Bordovsky J, et al. Site-specific irrigation and nitrogen management for cotton production in the southern high plains. Agronomy Journal. 2006;98(1): 212-219. Accessed on February 29, 2016
Delgado 2005* - Delgado JA, Khosla R, Bausch WC, Westfall DG, Inman DJ. Nitrogen fertilizer management based on site-specific management zones reduces potential for nitrate leaching. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 2005;60(6):402-410. Accessed on March 1, 2016
Gitau 2005* - Gitau MW, Gburek WJ, Jarrett AR. A tool for estimating best management practice effectiveness for phosphorus. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 2005;60(1):1-10. Accessed on March 1, 2016
Maguire 2008* - Maguire RO, Mullins GL, Brosius M. Evaluating long-term nitrogen-versus phosphorus-based nutrient management of poultry litter. Journal of Environmental Quality. 2008;37(5):1810-6. Accessed on March 1, 2016
MN DA-Nutrient management - Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MN DA). Conservation practices: Nutrient management. Accessed on February 29, 2016
Olson 2011 - Olson BM, Kalischuk AR (eds.). Nutrient beneficial management practices evaluation project 2007 to 2012: 2010 progress report. Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. 2011. Accessed on April 6, 2016
Sharpley 2009* - Sharpley AN, Kleinman PJA, Jordan P, Bergström L, Allen AL. Evaluating the success of phosphorus management from field to watershed. Journal of Environmental Quality. 2009;38(5):1981-8. Accessed on February 29, 2016
Shepard 2005 - Shepard R. Nutrient management planning: Is it the answer to better management? Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 2005;60(4):171-6. Accessed on November 9, 2015
US EPA-NP - US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Nutrient pollution (NP): the problem. Accessed on March 1, 2016
US EPA-NP solutions - US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Nutrient pollution (NP) the sources and solutions: Agriculture. Accessed on February 24, 2016
US EPA-Nutrient management - US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Agriculture: Nutrient management and fertilizer. Accessed on March 29, 2016
VanDyke 1999* - VanDyke LS, Pease JW, Bosch DJ, Baker JC. Nutrient management planning on four Virginia livestock farms: Impacts on net income and nutrient losses. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 1999;54(2):499-505. Accessed on March 1, 2016
Velandia 2008 - Velandia M, Rejesus RM, Bronson K, Segarra E. Economics of management zone delineation in cotton precision agriculture. Journal of Cotton Science. 2008;12(1):210-227. Accessed on February 29, 2016

Citations - Implementation

AFT - American Farmland Trust (AFT). Agricultural conservation innovation center. Accessed on December 10, 2015
CAFE-NBMPs - Center for Agriculture Food and the Environment (CAFE), University of Massachusetts Amherst. Nutrient best management practices. Accessed on February 29, 2016
MD DA-Nutrient management - Maryland Department of Agriculture (MD DA). About Maryland’s nutrient management program. Accessed on February 24, 2016
MN DA-Nutrient management - Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MN DA). Conservation practices: Nutrient management. Accessed on February 29, 2016
PennFUTURE 2011 - PennFUTURE. Agriculture and the law: a guide to Pennsylvania’s agricultural laws and regulations for farmers and their neighbors. 2011. Accessed on March 1, 2016
USDA-NRCS WI CNMPs - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Wisconsin: Comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP). Accessed on February 16, 2017
VA DCR-VACS 2013 - Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation (VA DCR). Program Year 2014: Virginia agricultural cost share (VACS) BMP manual. 2013. Accessed on March 1, 2016
WI DATCP-Nutrient management - Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Nutrient management. Accessed on February 24, 2016

Page Last Updated

June 3, 2015

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