WASHINGTON, D.C. — The USDA recently revised its national conservation practice standard on nutrient management to help producers better manage application of nutrients.
Proper application of nitrogen and phosphorus offers benefits, including cost savings to the producer and the protection or improvement of ground and surface water, air quality, soil quality and ag sustainability.
The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps farmers apply nutrients more efficiently, according to a news release.
Proper management of nitrogen and phosphorus, including the use of organic sources of nitrogen such as animal manure, legumes and cover crops, can save producers money.
The nutrient-management standard provides a roadmap to help producers apply available nutrient sources in the right amount, from the right source, in the right place, at the right time for maximum agricultural and environmental benefits.
NRCS nutrient-management experts worked with universities, non-government organizations, industry and others to revise the standard to ensure it is scientifically sound.
Key changes in the standard include expanding the use of technology to streamline the nutrient-management process and allowing states more flexibility in providing site-specific nutrient management planning using local information when working with producers. NRCS staff offices have until Jan. 1, 2013, to comply with erosion, nitrogen and phosphorus criteria for their state nutrient-management standard.
The revised standard is being released when the agency is working with various partners to address nutrient-management concerns identified in three recently released Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) cropland studies.
The studies assessed the effectiveness of conservation practices in the Upper Mississippi Basin, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and the Great Lakes Basin. A significant resource concern identified in the studies is the loss of nitrogen and phosphorus from cropland. Most nitrogen losses are attributed to nitrate leaching through the soil to groundwater.
Most phosphorus is lost due to erosion because phosphorus attaches itself to displaced soil particles that are transported by runoff to nearby waterways. The NRCS offers voluntary technical and financial assistance to producers for on-farmnutrient-management plans.
Producers can use this to help meet federal, state, tribal and local environmental regulations.
More information: www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/landuse/crops/npm.