Organic Farmers can Seek Nutrient Management Help


March 13, 2014

3 Min Read
Organic Farmers can Seek Nutrient Management Help

A recently released publication, Nutrient Management Plan (590) for Organic Systems: Western State Implementation Guide, describes the different steps an individial needs to take to develop a nutrient management plan for organic operations. Those steps include determing crop nutrient needs, crediting sources of nutrients in the farming system, evaluating the risks of nutrients leaving the field, and finally calculating the appropriate nutrient application rate. Part of a five-guide series, this resource will enable the Federal Environmental Quality Incentives (EQIP) Program, especially the EQIP Organic Initiative, to be more responsive to and valuable for organic farmers.

Nutrient management planning and budgeting in organic systems is often complex due to the reliance on nutrients from relatively hard to quantify sources such as cover crops, compost, manure, and soil mineralization. Nutrient Management Plan helps to address these barriers by presenting methods to quantify the nutrient contributions of common organic inputs and past management decisions.


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“In organic systems, accounting for the nutrient contributions of cover crops and the mineralization of previous applications of manure and compost is very important.” Sarah Brown, Organic Conservation Program Manager at Oregon Tilth adds that “although difficult to quantify, their sources should be well managed to meet crop needs and prevent over application which can run off or leach into water bodies. Significant financial savings can also be recognized, something most farmers would be very interested in.”

The guide includes a worksheet to develop nutrient management plans and a detailed description of the data needed. In addition to several conversion tables, there are a number of charts included which cover typical nutrient analysis of common organic fertilizers, estimates of plant available nitrogen from manure, and estimates of the nitrogen contribution of cover crops. National Organic Program (NOP) regulations related to soil fertility and crop nutrient management are also covered.

Together with the other four new resources, this guide will help address the insufficient technical resources and limited staff understanding to support organic conservation planning at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) which administers the EQIP Organic Initiative. The Organic Initiative provides financial assistance and technical support to organic and transitioning producers for conservation practices such as buffers, cover crops and nutrient management. The new guides may also be useful to other agricultural professionals such as those with Cooperative Extension and producers who are interested in implementing these conservation practices.

This project is the result of a partnership between Oregon Tilth’s Organic Conservation Program, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), the Xerces Society, Oregon State University Cooperative Extension, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) and USDA Natural Re-sources Conservation Service (NRCS); it is funded by a grant from Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (WSARE).

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