Development and Implementation of Fertilizer BMP Guides for Six Selected Major Cropping Systems

A multi-stakeholder committee initiative, funded through a conservation grant, to develop a list of management practices applicable in North Dakota.


27 Feb 2006


Practices included in nutrient management plans should be based on the best science and technology available. Current “official” recommendations for many crops have not been updated for many years, and do not adequately incorporate the latest science and technology available for site-specific management. In this project, the Foundation for Agronomic Research (FAR) will coordinate teams of producers, agronomists, and other stakeholders to assess current on-farm practices, current science, and current knowledge gaps, to produce a series of revised Best Management Practice (BMP) Guidelines for fertilizer use in six selected major cropping systems to serve as examples for future development of similar revised fertilizer BMPs for other crops and regions. FAR will then launch outreach programs to get these BMP Guidelines into the hands of producers, their crop advisers and fertilizer dealers, Extension, and NRCS staff to guide future nutrient management plans.
Recent attention to nutrient management plans has focused mostly on managing livestock manure for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), but such planning is a good management practice for any farm. A complete nutrient management plan for a given field must provide adequate nutrient supplies throughout their growth cycle for all crops grown, yet also protect soil, water, air, plant, and animal resources associated with the field, or influenced by it. A good plan should catalog all nutrient additions and removals, including manure and commercial fertilizers. It must also help provide a positive economic impact on the farm’s budget.

FAR is uniquely positioned to provide leadership in compiling BMPs for fertilizer management. Our close affiliation with the Potash & Phosphate Institute (PPI) provides a grass-roots staff (10 Ph.D. Agronomists in North America), strategically located throughout the country, who work with university scientists, industry agronomists, and service providers on conducting field research and improving management decisions. FAR and PPI are widely recognized as unbiased leaders in promoting implementation of new technology to improve crop and soil management systems.

The vast majority of nutrients to be managed on commercial farms are supplied through inorganic, commercial fertilizers. Nationwide, the USDA-ERS estimates that 17% and 8% of corn and soybean acres, respectively, receive manure Heimlich, R. 2003. Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators. Agricultural Handbook No. (AH772). Economic Research Service-USDA. About 10% of the nitrogen requirement for U.S. crop production is supplied from livestock manure; the remaining 90% must come from commercial fertilizer. This project focuses on management of the commercial fertilizer portion and proposes to develop a series of practical publications on best management practices (BMPs) for fertilizer use. To the extent that management of organic sources impact fertilizer management, these sources will also be addressed.
FAR and PPI provide a science-based research and education support program to facilitate interdisciplinary and interstate cooperation in crop and soil management (See our websites: and Together we provide a national/international perspective, yet maintain close involvement at the state level. Each of our staff serve on various advisory and review committees for universities, USDA-ARS units, NRCS state offices, state agribusiness associations, Certified Crop Adviser (CCA) Boards, and individual research projects---- valuable established communication links for this project.

Our InfoAg Conferences, presented over the past 10 years, are the premier venue for sharing of information and technology applications for use on the farm and in farm-related services. Approximately 5000 people have attended the national conferences held since 1995. The next national conference, InfoAg 2005, will be in Springfield, Illinois, July 19-21, 2005. Details of these conferences are posted on our website, Our plan is for a major part of InfoAg 2007 to focus on the Fertilizer Management BMPs produced from this project. Our Site-Specific Management Guidelines publication series is a widely used collection of technical guides to assist with the adoption of site-specific technology. Similar publications will be developed as part of the outreach component of this project.