Voluntary nutrient management plans this winter can lead to dividends in the fall

Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District

I think most of us would agree planning is important. Creating a nutrient management plan and using it can be a valuable tool for your farm operation. Having a plan is extremely important, considering the increased cost of growing crops. In the last two years the cost of crop nutrients has increased rapidly.

As a result, they can be one of the most expensive input costs per acre. This winter is a great time to develop a practical and useful nutrient management plan. Taking some time to create one and using it allows for better management resulting in the applied nutrients paying dividends in the fall and reducing nutrient runoff to our streams and lakes.

Developing and creating a plan demonstrates responsibility for applied nutrients and that you are doing what you can to reduce environmental risk and improve water quality. Whether your farmland drains into the Ohio River or Lake Erie, keeping nutrients out of the water and in the field for the crop is important to your bottom line and to improving water quality.

What is an Ohio Voluntary Nutrient Management Plan? Senate Bill 150 provided landowners the opportunity to develop OVNMP’s that could be approved by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. It outlines how agricultural nutrients will be applied in your farming operation to ensure that nutrient recommendations are developed to reduce environmental risk.

The recommendations are based on your current soil tests and the Tri State Fertility Guide. Field information such as acres, rotations and average yields need to be identified. All nutrients must be accounted for in an approved plan, including manure, fertilizer, sewage sludge, and biodigester residue. The three sections of any good plan are:

  1. What you plan to do. (Recommendations)

  2. What you did. (Application records)

  3. What you got (Yield records)

What are some of the benefits of a nutrient management plan?

  • Fertilizer recommendations do not exceed levels found necessary by scientific research for optimum crop growth.

  • Soil testing is done with the frequency and density to accurately inform fertilizer application rates.

  • Verification that nutrient application rates and rules are followed and the 4R principles (Right Source, Right Rate, Right Place, Right Time) are applied to limit environmental losses.

  • An approved plan can, in part, provide an affirmative defense against a private civil action for claims involving the application of fertilizer.

  • Plans will remain confidential under O.R.C. 905.324.What record keeping is required for a nutrient management plan?

What recordkeeping is required for a plan?

Having a nutrient management plan is important, but recordkeeping after application may be even more important. Too many times farmers have wanted to go back and check on what was done, only to find it was undocumented.

Application records should include date, location, acres applied, rate, amount, analysis of fertilizer applied, soil conditions, application method, weather conditions at time of application and weather forecast for the day following the application.

The ODA Voluntary Nutrient Management Plan is formatted so all these required records may be kept as part of the plan.

How do I get started on a nutrient management plan?

Call Ashland SWCD at 419-281-7645 for more information and assistance to develop your plan. You will need soil tests, field maps, crop rotations, and yield goals. You can make 2023 the year you are doing your part to apply nutrients responsibly and are making the effort to improve water quality.

Joe Christner is a watershed assistant with the Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District.

This article originally appeared on Ashland Times Gazette: Need a nutrient management plan? Here’s how to make one work for you