Best Management Practices for
Agricultural Runoff

There are numerous Agricultural BMPs. We will touch on some below.

  • Nutrient Management – Nutrients are critical to the management of a farm. Nutrients are needed by both plants and animals in adequate amounts. Sometimes farmers add an excess of fertilizer to their fields to make sure there is an adequate amount for their row crops. If there are a lot of cattle grazed on land where the space is limited the same problem can occur – nutrients and bacteria in the manure cause water problems. Managing the total quantity of nutrients on the farm begin with a soil test. The soil test tells you the level of nutrients already in the soil. Then, by knowing the amount of each nutrient that is present in the fertilizer, the farmer can decide how much of the fertilizer to add to the soil for plant growth. Another good practice is to use manure as a fertilizer, have it tested and then add it to row crops at levels necessary for plant growth. Manure used this way adds nutrients and organic matter to the soil, is a stream-healthy way to dispose of waste, and was used as fertilizer long before modern fertilizers were developed.

  • Minimum tillage – Minimum tillage means that the farmer plows only when necessary. Conventional tillage, or the traditional method of farming, recommended that farmers till the fields each time they planted and during the growth of the crop. Instead of plowing before each planting, minimum tillage allows the farmer to drill in the seed for the crop through weeds and previous crop stubble. Weeds are controlled through the use of herbicides. By leaving all this organic matter on the surface of the field the farmer decreases the amount of sediment and nutrients in the runoff. The organic matter binds the sediment and soil together and absorbs the nutrients.

  • Grassed waterways and turn rows – Grassed waterways are ditches left with grass growing in them. Likewise, grassed turn rows are the places on the edge of fields left with grass growing on it. Grasses trap sediments and take up nutrients running off of farmers fields.

  • Integrated Pest Management – Integrated pest management is adding only the necessary amount of pesticide to get rid of a specific pest. Farmers put out bug traps or walk their fields and look for pests on their crop. They do this to estimate the level of infestation. When the infestation is higher than a certain level, they spray their field or only the sections of field that contain the infestation. They consider the type of soil they are spraying on because some soils will soak up more pesticide than others, requiring the farmer to spray more. Other forms of integrated pest management include using natural predators to hunt down and eat the pest species. A good example is releasing lady bugs to eat aphids. Aphids are a plant pest that suck the juices of the plant and keep the plant from growing normally. Each day, lady bugs can eat a lot of aphids, in addition to other pest species. Using natural controls is becoming more and more popular as scientists figure out the most effective ways to make these natural controls fit current farming methods. Using integrated pest management farmers can save time, money, and the environment!
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