Small Group Nutrient Management Planning Education

Project Staff: 

Principal Investigator: Jim Anderson, Principal Investigator, WRC Co-Director

Additional Staff: Les Everett, WRC Project Manager; David Wall, MPCA Project Manager; Kevin Blanchet and Jodi DeJong-Hughes, U of M Extension Educators

Funding: 

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (EPA 319 grant)

Project Duration: 

January 2003 - June 2006

Summary: 

The goal of this project was to improve nutrient and manure management practices by:

  1. directly increasing the number of crop nutrient and manure management plans written by farmers and agricultural professionals in Minnesota through a personalized education program, and
  2. providing clear access to all necessary information for nutrient and manure management through development of a central web site.

From February 2003 to March 2006, 843 participants in 80 small-group University of Minnesota Extension-led workshops prepared two-field nutrient management plans (NMP) for their own farms. The 3-hour workshops were hosted by county feedlot officers, conservation districts, local Extension offices, or livestock producer organizations. Most participants were non-CAFO livestock producers with manure management requirements under state rules. In the sessions, 86% of participants calculated that they would save $6 or more per acre in fertilizer purchases if they followed their new plans and 56% would save more than $10 per acre. A survey was sent to 669 participants following the cropping season when the NMP would have first been implemented. The survey return rate was 50%. Of respondents, 55% had completed their plans for the entire farm as a result of the sessions, 3% were still completing their plans, while 6% had completed them prior to the sessions. Of those not completing their plans, 11% indicated that a plan is not required of their operation, while others cited complexity of the plan, shortage of time, not a farm operator, or loss of professional plan preparer. Of respondents, 92% were producers, managing an average of 785 acres, which indicates that the total crop area managed by all producer participants is approximately 609,000 acres. Of respondents, the increase in practice adoption from pre-workshop to post-season was 10% for soil testing, 21% for testing manure, 22% for calibration of spreaders, 29% for crediting nutrients in manure, and 33% for keeping records of manure applications. An additional 10-20% indicated that they intended to adopt the practice within two years. We conclude that the hands-on, small-group approach was effective in increasing participant understanding of the planning process and in motivating producers to adopt recommended manure and nutrient management practices.