Nutrient Management Plans
Respect the Shenandoah is a broad-ranging campaign that encompasses more than just agriculture, but because so many of the water quality issues can be attributed to agricultural practices, the campaign necessarily has a considerable focus on how and where improvements can be made by and for the benefit of the farming community.
One of those details is nutrient management, but for the non-farmer, what is a nutrient management plan? Simply stated, a nutrient management plan is a guide for applying organic or inorganic fertilizers to maximize yield while preventing the movement of nutrients into ground and surface waters. The Respect the Shenandoah effort to control cattle access to the river and poultry litter and cattle manure runoff are components of nutrient management. An effective plan incorporates those elements but also addresses soil fertility, carbon capture and sequestration, erosion and sediment control, and other needs.
So a nutrient management plan would start with soil testing to establish a baseline for soil nutrients. Soil sample analyses are essential for accurate nutrient recommendations by crop and soil type and should be updated at least once every three years. Virginia has a nutrient management program that provides soil testing at no cost.
What would a soil test show? In addition to soil pH, it would reveal excessive or deficient nutrients in the soil, both macronutrients and micronutrients. The former include nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium; the latter are, for example, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron and boron.
The broader purpose of a plan is to manage both agricultural nutrients in fertilizers, manure, biosolids and other sources so that they retain their efficient use, yet don’t impair the quality of Virginia’s ground and surface waters. And that is the real key: for farmers engaged in either animal husbandry or crop growing, or both, an effective plan will help assure maximum productivity and also protection of the waterways from excessive nutrient pollution, which causes algal outbreaks, fish kills, and impairment of the rivers for both recreation and drinking water.
In other words, nutrient management planning that would Respect the Shenandoah.