Three years before the Maryland Department of Agriculture revised nutrient management regulations a BMP Challenge crop adviser, Don Moore (AET Agricultural Consulting) took the initiative and partnered with American Farmland Trust and Agflex Inc. to work with seven farmers to inject or incorporate manure into the soil. Manure injection or incorporation increases fertilizer efficiency, thus reducing potential nutrient loss from the field three ways. When the manure is below, rather than on top of the soil, nitrogen rich ammonia gas can’t escape to the air making more of it available to the plant by as much as 20%. Secondly, the fertilizer is now located several inches closer to the plant roots. Finally, it is far less susceptible to being washed away in heavy spring rains. The potential is for this practice to allow the farmer to reduce the total amount of total fertilizer inputs mainly the chemical type put on mid-season, thus be, saving money and improving water quality. Since manure incorporation with vertical tillage equipment such as an Aerway or Turbotill is a relatively new practice, the BMP Challenge comparisons were setup to determine whether incorporation would affect yields. In 2012, participants applied the same number of nitrogen credits across the entire field. However, they reduced the amount of commercial fertilizer at sidedress on the manure incorporation acres. The incorporation increased the nitrogen credit to offset the commercial fertilizer reduction. By the third year, the part of the field where manure was applied to the surface at the recommended rate was compared to the rest of the field that used incorporation and a reduced application rate based less ammonia escaping to the air. Across the three years, incorporation showed an average increase in net returns by $6.00 per acre and a nitrogen reduction of 7 pounds. Over-all the farmers saved more than 8,400 pounds of nitrogen applications. Five of seven participating farmers in the BMP Challenge demonstrations were interviewed last fall regarding their participation. Three have purchased new equipment. One is seriously considering it and the fifth has expanded use of vertical tillage to all his crop acres. According to Moore, “Throughout the entire BMP Challenge process, farmers demonstrated their willingness and eagerness to learn. They want to learn about and adopt new technologies if they make good economic sense. They are not willing to risk yield to experiment. This is where the yield guarantee was important to them. In this world of high commodity prices, and inputs that are equally as high, growers are hesitant to entertain additional risk. No one is interested in over-application of nutrients. Maryland state law now requires farmers to inject or incorporate manure and other organic nutrient sources into the soil within 48 hours of application. The past three years of work on the Eastern Shore has provided important information to farmers and agricultural advisors as well. The BMP Challenge will be working with an expanded number of growers this year to transition from surface application to manure incorporation.
What brought you to this kind of work and has kept you engaged for your 32 years with American Farmland Trust (AFT)?
I started out as an environmental lawyer at the Environmental Defense Fund back in the early 1970’s. We were working on pesticides, water quality and quantity and wetlands, and the common thread that runs
What brought you to American Farmland Trust (AFT) and has kept you engaged over the past five years?
I don’t have a farm background but I did overseas work for a long time in sustainable agriculture and community-based things was always part of that. Then I began working more in conservation and sustainability. Working in
What first brought you to American Farmland Trust (AFT) and what has kept you engaged in your first year with the organization?
I grew up on a grain and livestock farm in central Illinois and worked in agriculture in Illinois and Indiana most of my professional career. Shortly after graduate school, I began working at
What brought you to American Farmland Trust (AFT) and has kept you engaged in your work over the past 11 years?
I was first introduced to AFT when our former president, Ralph Grossi, along with AFT Special Advisor Norm Berg, came to discuss Farm Bill conservation programs with my then boss, Senator Herb Kohl. I
What brought you to American Farmland Trust and what has kept you here for 13 years?
I grew up in a very rural part of Upstate New York in a community that was dominated by dairy farms and apple trees. What I always appreciated growing up was the importance of helping to protect the natural environment
What brought you to at American Farmland Trust and has kept you engaged during your two years here?
I’ve actually known about the organization since the early 1980’s and I’ve had a pretty strong interest in farmland preservation and rural conservation issues since then. I first got to know AFT when I was in
Today is World Soil Day. The observance dates back to its original recognition in 2002 by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS). This year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is observing today as World Soil Day. As the FAO website states, “Soil is a finite natural resource. On a
Continue reading American Farmland Trust Recognizes World Soil Day
“Out of the long list of nature’s gifts to man, none is perhaps so utterly essential to human life as soil.” – Hugh Hammond Bennett, first chief of the Soil Conservation Service
Award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns’ latest project, “The Dust Bowl,” premiers on PBS on November 18-19. The film focuses on what PBS calls “the worst
At midnight on September 30, the 2008 Farm Bill—known officially as the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008—technically expired. That means that legal authority reverts to permanent law enacted in the 1930’s and 1940’s—a time when current conservation programs did not exist. Yet some programs continue because Congress extended them for the short term
Continue reading As Farm Bill Expires, What’s Next for Conservation?