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


FAR will assemble a Fertilizer BMP Team to refine a list of BMPs for each of six cropping systems of major importance in the U.S. The PPI North American Program Coordinator and regional directors will coordinate the BMP compilation process for each of the cropping systems.

Early in the project, PPI will prepare a general Fertilizer Management BMP Matrix and Decision Guide for each cropping system, to guide the development of the final Fertilizer BMP Guides. This program will focus on technologies practices, rather than rate recommendations, for improved management of nutrients. An example BMP matrix is presented in Fertilizer BMPs---How Do You Measure Up? by Dr. Adrian Johnston. The matrix begins with a column showing current practices, followed by a column of improved practices, and a third showing the best management practice. These three levels of improvement could be related to the three-tiered approach to implementation of a TSP program. These matrices should be a useful reference in guiding development of the fertilizer component of nutrient management plans associated with NRCS and USDA cost-sharing programs. A simple BMP Matrix is shown in Table 1. The guides developed in this project will be more detailed and will include references to the scientific studies on which they are based.

Current (or Average) Management Practice
Improved (Better) Management Practice
Best Management Practice
Soil testing with random samples throughout the fieldSoil testing using GPS and GIS to guide and log sampling pointsIntensive spoil sampling with GPS, GIS, and management zone technologies.
N applied at the same rate across the fieldN applied at variable-rate based on past crop yieldsN applied at variable-rate based on on-board sensors.
Use of standard N fertilizer materials and flat rate based on expected yield.Use of N stabilizers, and adjustment of rate to account for previous crop.Use of Enhanced Efficiency N Sources applied with variable rate technology.
P applied at a uniform rate across the fieldVariable-rate P application with zone-based recommendationsVariable-rate P application, zone-based, with GIS-delineated buffer strips along drainageways.
Table 1. Example of a Simple Fertilizer BMP Matrix.
The process of development of the decision guides will be coordinated by Dr. Paul Fixen, PPI North American Program Coordinator. The proposed systems to be addressed are:

Selected Cropping System PPI Director Responsible
1. Northwest U.S. potatoes (ID) Dr. Rob Mikkelsen, Davis, CA
2. Spring cereal/pulse rotations (ND) Dr. Adrian Johnston, Saskatoon, SK
3. Great Plains irrigated corn (KS) Dr. Mike Stewart, San Antonio, TX
4. Midwest corn/soybean systems (IL) Dr. Scott Murrell, Woodbury, MN
5. Midsouth cotton rotations (AR) Dr. Cliff Snyder, Conway, AR
6. Northeast forage for dairy (NY) Dr. Tom Bruulsema, Guelph, ON

The following stakeholders will be invited to participate in each BMP Team:
  1. At least four farmers who are good managers and EQIP-eligible. We will consult with the State Conservationist or his/her designee to help us select acceptable farmers.
  2. The local fertilizer supplier for each farmer
  3. The Certified Crop Adviser (CCA), or other agronomic consultant, for each farm
  4. Local District Conservationist (or designee) for the farm area
  5. University Extension specialists as appropriate
  6. County or regional Extension educator
  7. The Regional Director for the Potash & Phosphate Institute

FAR and PPI will work with each of the local teams to characterize the current cropping system and common fertilizer management practices.

Location and Size of Project Area
The project will focus on six major cropping systems, and will involve EQIP-eligible producers and their advisers from six states (Idaho, Kansas, North Dakota. Illinois, Arkansas, New York) selected to represent the cropping system for their region. Some project participants may be selected from outside the state, if their expertise for the selected cropping system is needed. The BMPs will be targeted for the cropping region. Individual states may want to make them more specific.

Producer Participation
The project will involve at least 24 EQIP-eligible producers as a part of the BMP Teams. The other fertilizer management stakeholders for each team will bring the total number of active participants to approximately 200, most of whom will directly influence other producers in their areas, providing a rapid multiplier effect. Field days and conferences used to present the fertilizer BMP materials will involve larger numbers of producers, CCAs, fertilizer dealers, NRCS staff, Extension staff, and other interested individuals.

Project Action Plan and Timeline
The preliminary BMP matrix for each selected cropping region, developed by the PPI Regional Director, will serve as a template to get the process started. In addition to developing the final Fertilizer BMP Decision Guides, each team will identify economic, agronomic, logistical, and environmental constraints to adoption.

General Project Timeline
Fall 2005PPI completes preliminary matrices of current fertilizer BMPs for each of the 6 region/cropping systems to steer the project. This development process is already underway at no expense to the project.
Late Fall 2005FAR and PPI, in consultation with NRCS, select farmers and other stakeholders for Regional BMP Teams.
FAR will develop a web-based communication system for use by project participants. Parts will be posted for public access to begin building public awareness of the project.
Winter 2005-2006FAR will host BMP Team meetings in each of the regions to further define the work plan and assign tasks to be completed by each of the participants.
Early 2006BMP Teams collect and review current BMPs and technology options for fertilizer management for respective cropping systems/regions.
2006FAR will catalog existing BMPs for the cropping systems. Data will be geo-referenced and combined with other data to define the inference spaces associated with individual BMPs.
2006-2007BMP Teams study current BMPs and work on revisions to incorporate recent research and new technology. Small group and full team sessions will be scheduled.
Fall-winter 2007Fertilizer BMPs presented in a national Fertilizer Management Conference (InfoAg 2007)
Fall 2007Finalize the Fertilizer BMP Matrix and Decision Guides.
2007-2008“Train-the Trainer” sessions for stakeholder groups at Regional InfoAg Conferences, and presentations at other state and regional conferences to “test drive” materials.
Early 2008Update all materials, continue regional InfoAg Conference presentations, and complete final report.

Detail of specific action items.
1. Meetings of each Regional BMP Team to initiate the project.
    · Review current recommendations
    · Collect available information on current producer practices
    · Identify applicable fertilizer management technologies and constraints to their adoption
2. Develop revised Fertilizer BMP matrix for the region. (2006-2007)
    · Develop GIS of resources available for management decisions
    · Relate recommended practices to TSP three-tier adoption system.
    · Associate current management practices with the GIS data as appropriate for future reference
3. Prepare Fertilizer BMP Decision Guides for implementing BMPs (2007)
    · Technical guides and references.
    · Create Rating system for adoption of practices (TSP, CSP, EQIP, etc)
4. Outreach plan. An outreach plan is critical to implementation of the BMPs by as many producers as possible. Emphasis will be on incorporating Fertilizer BMPs into trusted information sources that producers consult in their decision process. This will include the following:
    · Publications
      i. BMP Decision Guides for Regional Cropping Systems.
      ii. Farm press (FAR and PPI work closely with ag editors).
    · Website
      i. Internal communication; external (public) communication.
      ii. Computer-based online training to broaden the audience.
      iii. On-line access for materials developed under this project.
    · Training trainers
      i. NRCS/CCA/Extension training sessions to build awareness of the BMP decision guides developed in the project.
      ii. Some offered at regional and national InfoAg Conferences.
5. Roll-out conference and final report.

Our InfoAg 2007 Conference will include special BMPs for Fertilizer Management sessions for producers and other stakeholders interested in implementing the BMPs into their cropping systems.

Project Management
FAR will manage the project and will arrange for meetings of participants, facilitate communications, and along with PPI, assemble the databases upon which the BMPs are based. FAR, PPI, and the group leaders will prepare publications of Fertilizer Management BMPs. FAR will host conferences and/or field days to present and discuss the BMP packages. FAR will prepare and present the final report on the project to NRCS, and make the information available to the public via website access, special publications, and news releases to farm media.

Benefits or Results Expected and Transferability
The main product will be a Fertilizer BMP Management Guide for each selected regional cropping system, well documented with research data upon which they are based, comments on field experience, an outline of obstacles to adoption, and identification of the geographic area to which they are applicable. These BMP matrices will be provided to the appropriate universities, NRCS State Conservationists, and Certified Crop Adviser, crop consultant, agribusiness, and farmer organizations. The intended result will be a current science-based, well-referenced set of fertilizer management BMPs that incorporates the latest available research, on-farm experience, and technology, and will guide development of similar packages for other cropping systems.

Project Evaluation
The project will provide science-based Fertilizer BMPs for each of the project’s six cropping systems. The BMP matrices developed by the local Fertilizer BMP Team, will be evaluated in the group sessions in the later phases of the project. State NRCS Technical Guide committees will evaluate the matrices for possible inclusion in their FOTGs at the state and county level. The final evaluation will be the successful adoption of the BMPs by farmers. The conference proceedings, the Fertilizer BMP Guides, and the website will be part of the final report.

Environmental Impacts
Expected environmental effects of the recommended BMPs will be included in the documentation for the respective BMPs. This documentation will help guide research to further field evaluation of the proposed BMPs, including their impact on the environment at the field level and on downstream/downwind resources.

FAR and PPI are committed to develop a set of science-based, technologically up-to-date Fertilizer BMPs compiled by, and endorsed by, the respective academic, professional, and producer stakeholders. The BMPs will be coordinated across political boundaries, so that management decisions and government cost-sharing programs can be guided by the best information available. We are uniquely qualified and positioned to provide the leadership needed to direct this process. Our network of farmers, advisers, fertilizer dealers, NRCS staff, and Extension staff and ongoing working relationships with all of these groups will facilitate getting the proper teams together to develop the Fertilizer BMP Guides. Our InfoAg Conferences will provide a forum for presenting the Guides to those who can implement them on the farm.