OWOSSO TWP. — Nutrients are essential to produce strong, healthy plants;if there are not enough nutrients in the soil to grow good crops, more nutrients will have to be added.

The additional nutrients can come from fertilizers, manure or compost. Using these crop nutrients as efficiently as possible to improve productivity while protecting the environment is known as nutrient management.

A major principle of nutrient management is to prevent the over-application of nutrients to protect water quality and benefit a farm’s bottom line.

“Extra nutrients that are not taken up by crops can leach into the groundwater or runoff into nearby surface waters through agricultural drainage systems,” Shiawassee Conservation District Watershed Technician Colleen Gleason said. “Applying more nitrogen or phosphorus than the plants can utilize impairs water quality, and can cause algal blooms that ruin swimming, fishing, and boating opportunities.”

Proper nutrient management is especially important on slopes, environmentally sensitive areas such as streambanks or where groundwater is close to the surface, and in soils with high phosphorous levels.

Soil tests are essential for a good nutrient management plan. Tests should be conducted in order to determine what soils are on your farm and where nutrients are needed most. The results can help prevent over fertilization, optimize plant growth, and increase profitability.

The key to effective nutrient management is to develop and follow a yearly plan. It is incredibly important to record the rate, method, and timing of all nutrient applications. It is also essential to note the source of nutrients, whether it was commercial fertilizer, manure, biosolids or legumes.

“These records can help you compare results from year to year and be more cost effective with nutrient purchasing and application,” Shiawassee Conservation District Conservation Specialist Tom Wert said. “Additionally, these records are required to keep in compliance with Michigan Right to Farm.” The Conservation District works one-on-one with producers to help develop effective nutrient management plans.

For more information on conservation planning and special incentives available now, contact the Shiawassee Conservation District at (989) 723-8263, ext 3.

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