Managing Nutrients With A Greater Level Of Precision

Follow this five-step approach to reduce your environmental footprint

The NRCS recently revised its national conservation-practice standards on nutrient management to encourage farmers to improve their planning and applications.

A key practice the NRCS is encouraging producers to adopt is precision technologies like GPS guidance, crop sensors and rate controllers. Linked with strip-till and no-till, these tools can help farmers optimize their nutrient management.

These standards were revised as the NRCS evaluated the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) cropland studies. The studies assess the effectiveness of conservation practices in the Upper Mississippi River Basin, the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the Great Lakes basin.

The studies show elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus running off farms into waterways, causing algal blooms, dead zones and other environmental impacts.

If you plan to use precision technology to improve nutrient-management on your own farm, you must use soil sampling and other landscape-evaluation tools identify different soil and landscape zones. These zones identify the levels of nutrients and nutrient-holding capacities in your fields.

The zones are used to create prescription maps and apply nutrients using variable-rate technology, which can minimize nutrient losses and reduce input costs significantly.

These savings, along with increased yield potential, should more than offset the costs of purchasing the technology and doing additional soil and landscape testing.

Steps To Take

1 Gather Soil And Landscape Data: To use precision-ag tools effectively, you must have good underlying soil and landscape data.

Soil Testing To Determine Field Variability — Soil testing each farm intensively at least once helps you understand field variability…

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Jim Leverich

Jim Leverich no-tills near Sparta, Wis., and serves as an onfarm research coordinator for the University of Wisconsin.

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