Water quality and nutrient management toolkit developed to address growing need

The complexities of nutrient management do not simply require occasional attention on the farm. Properly managing nutrients requires year-round effort, attention to details and careful record keeping. With these things in mind, the Shelby County Soil and Water Conservation District, Cargill in Sidney, and the Shelby County Farm Bureau teamed up to help farmers in the increasingly important management of the nutrients that are necessary components of crop and livestock production.

“I am not sure you can go to any farm meeting in the state right now and not have this topic come up,” said Andrea Guckes with Cargill. “We were very fortunate to work with a lot of people who really know their stuff and we were really excited to be a part of this.”

The effort that began last August has resulted in an educational toolkit for producers — “Water Quality & Nutrient Management … from Planning to Placement to Profit.”

“This is a local project that we have going on, but we believe this has application across all counties in the state and in other states. We want to see how other counties can build on this and broaden it,” Guckes said

The toolkit contains a glossy wall calendar featuring pictures of local agriculture and a monthly tip for nutrient management during that time of year.

“Each page has a tip of the month that makes them think about nutrient management to get folks thinking about what they need to be doing at that time of year,” said Jason Bruns, with the Shelby County Soil and Water Conservation District. “Anything we can do to keep nutrient management in the forefront of producers’ minds is an added benefit.”

The toolkit is an educational binder containing data recording sheets for farmers to track applications of nutrients, seed varieties, planting dates, marketing information, and other pertinent data. The binder also contains a variety of Extension fact sheets to help producers make informed nutrient management decisions. Topics include the 4Rs, phosphorus fertility recommendations and soil test interpretation

“Soil tests are not easy things to read and they can say many things. This helps producers because they can put it on their shelf and refer to it when they need to. We want to see folks have a basic understanding of nutrient management on their farms. The bulk of the publication is the Tri-State Fertility Guide. Lots of folks have heard about it, but many people don’t actually have one,” Bruns said. “We also thought about, ‘What are we lacking when we talk about managing nutrients in Ohio?’ A big chunk of that is record keeping. Hopefully, when a producer is done with this field record sheet, they will have all the information right here when they come into the Farm Service office or for crop insurance. We’ve been missing the records of what they have been doing historically. This is a tool to move us in the right direction with record keeping.”

Ohio Farm Bureau senior director of environmental policy Larry Antosch said that this tool kit fills an important need in agriculture in Shelby County, and around Ohio.

“This tool can be invaluable in helping Ohio agriculture. As this water quality issue has been surfacing over the last several years, we have been searching for some type of record keeping system that works. There really isn’t one out there,” Antosch said. “This can help track and document what you need.”

Farmers need to be prepared for coming legislation on this issue and this tool can help.

“This is something that is not going to go away. This is a national and international concern that is getting a lot of attention. The public has different expectations that everything is going to be blue skies and rainbows tomorrow,” Antosch said. “We need to be able to say, ‘Here is what we are doing and here is what we can expect.’”

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