Nutrient management is a topic that many of us in the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) have heard more times than not when it comes to best management practices (BMPs) and nutrient application on the fields in our area. Many different practices fall under nutrient management, practices like gypsum application, conservation crop rotation, and cover crops to name a few. Not only does the land benefit from nutrient management, but the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and some Soil & Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) offer cost share programs- so not only does the land benefit, but the farmer also gets a payment! A few of the practices that I like to recommend are filter strips, water control structures, and residue and tillage management- no-till. Let’s take a closer look at each of these practices!
- Filter Strips- The definition by NRCS says that a filter strip is, “a strip or area of herbaceous vegetation that removes contaminants from overland flow.” Basically a filter strip is a patch of grass that goes along a waterway, which could be anything from a ditch to a river. Filter strips serve the purpose of filtering nutrients that are placed on the field and help to keep them there, some nutrients might reach the water sources but the amount is much less significant.
- Water Control Structures- This practice may be applied as a management component of a water management system to control the stage, discharge, distribution, delivery, or direction of water flow. They are connected to the tile in the field, and the producer can place plates into the structure to help either hold the water in the field or to release it. NRCS’s definition is, “a structure in a water management system that conveys water, controls the direction or rate of flow, maintains a desired water surface elevation or measures water.”
- Residue and Tillage Management- No-Till- This practice is exactly what it sounds like; producers limit the amount of tillage on their fields, therefore residue remains on the surface. The definition from NRCS is, “limiting soil disturbance to manage the amount, orientation and distribution of crop and plant residue on the soil surface year around.” There are also many other benefits of using this management style, a few of those are reducing sheet, rill, and wind erosion, increase soil quality and organic matter, and increased water use and capacity in the soil.
The practices discussed above are just a few of the management styles that are included in nutrient management. The purpose of nutrient management is the process of managing the amount (rate), source, placement (method of application), and timing of plant nutrients and soil properties. Most co-op’s in the area follow NRCS’s guidelines when it comes to nutrient management standards, but it is still the farmer’s responsibility to be aware of what is going on in their fields. SWCDs are working hard to get the word out about nutrient management and they are stressing the importance of the management practices due to the current state of Lake Erie. Please contact your local SWCD with any questions!
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