Farming in the Nutrient Storm

July 14, 2015 09:03 PM
Farming in the Nutrient Storm

The cold, hard truth on nutrient stewardship? Voluntary state programs will likely transition into some form of an EPA-driven federal mandate.

Whether hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay, and Lake Erie; or the pending lawsuit involving Des Moines Water Works, agriculture is facing increased calls for regulation and restrictions on nitrate use. “I think it’s time for everybody to step up to the plate and get educated together: farmers and our city cousins,” said Farm Journal field agronomist Ken Ferrie, at Corn College 2015, in Heyworth, Ill. “Agriculture must be prepared if the nutrient rulebook becomes mandated.”

Nutrient stewardship focuses on the four R’s: rate, source, timing and placement. Ferrie placed heavy emphasis on timing and says growers must place consideration on when nitrate applications are needed. Instead of putting out fertilizer according to convenience, splitting applications and feeding crops at key points of need avoids a huge surplus of nitrate that is conducive to runoff. Essentially, application should be made close to uptake. “Don’t put it all on in the spring. Use a portion and then follow up as the crop requires.”

Nitrate regulations will apply to cities and force change – a relief to agriculture at first glance. “If city numbers tied to nitrates change and ours in agriculture don’t, we’ll be in trouble,” Ferrie warned.

He advised growers to prepare for regulations to stay competitive fertilizer management. “The reality is we’ve got to learn to farm with more regulation. Staying competitive in this storm will take more management than money.”

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Spell Check

Northern, IA
7/16/2015 09:37 AM

  Good topic for an article and I agree that regulations will probably be a part of our future but I suggest it gets a quick edit. I don't get how rate, source, timing and placement could be "Four R's", four great things to use as a foundation for fertility management to be sure, however, not four r-words. Also what is this: sentence supposed to say? "He advised growers to prepare for regulations to stay competitive fertilizer management."

La Salle, CO
7/15/2015 09:20 PM

  Manure management will be a lot tougher than other fertilizer sources. How can that be done?

Michael Carr
Bakersfield, CA
10/8/2015 06:23 PM

  The best way to manage your manure applications is to get a soil analysis and find out were you NO3-N levels are at the start of the season. To make sure the manure is utilized always add 3 ton of gypsum (CaSO4*2H2O) for every ton of manure. That will ensure that the manure will break down due to good water penetration adding large amounts of manure without keeping you soluble calcium percentage up will cause poor uptake of the nitrate and a possibility of leaching. You want a good root structure to utilize the NO3-N and that is done by keeping your pH slightly acid and your soluble calcium above 80 %. Remember EC=Ca+Mg+Na in meq you want your EC between 2.5 and 3.5 no more than 2 meq of Mg <1 meq of Na and 85 % soluble calcium this soil condition will ensure that the nitrate is used. Always get a soil analysis after harvest to find out what you have used.


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