Nutrient management is not always a conservation practice that one can visually see in the field, but more of a management change. The goal of this practice is to reduce the amount of nutrient loss into our waterways with science based fertilizer/manure application rates based on crop needs and soils. This practice follows the 4-R’s of nutrient management; the right source, right rate, right time, and right place.
Producers follow guidelines to safely apply their nutrients in a sustainable manner. This may include updated soil testing, variable rate applications, no surface applications on frozen or snow covered grounds, limited fall nitrogen applications and nutrient applications that follow the Tri-State Fertility Guide recommendations to name a few.
The end results is economical crop yields, decreased amount of nutrient loss, and enhanced water quality. This practice provides a written plan for producers to follow for their farms’ specific needs. The end result is greening up our fields and not our lakes and rivers.
Since 2008, Clermont SWCD and other members of the East Fork Watershed Cooperative have been working together to reduce nutrient and sediment levels in the East Fork Little Miami River and Harsha Lake. One Cooperative member – US EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) – has developed a water quality model that is making it easier for SWCD to focus our conservation efforts.
Using data collected by various members of the Cooperative, US EPA-ORD has developed and calibrated a Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model for the East Fork watershed. The SWAT model has been effective in predicting sediment and nutrient loads from different land uses, and also in predicting the impact that various management scenarios might have on reducing pollutant loads. Already, this model has helped Clermont SWCD with several projects.
In 2011, Clermont SWCD received a Conservation Innovation Grant that provided funds for a concentrated planting of cover crops in the Grassy Run Watershed. US EPA-ORD applied the SWAT model to help identify areas within the watershed which are prone to high soil erosion, and therefore good candidates for winter cover crops. Once these locations were known, SWCD staff and the NRCS District Conservationist were able to work with producers to secure commitments to plant cover crops in these fields for a period of three years.
More recently, Clermont SWCD received a Resource Conservation Partnership Program grant for additional conservation practices in the Harsha Lake watershed. For each application received, US EPA-ORD uses the SWAT model to predict nutrient loadings from that field. The fields with the highest loadings receive additional points in the ranking process, and receive additional consideration for funding assistance. In this way, SWCD and NRCS are able to use limited grant funds in areas where they are most needed.
Through its partnership with US EPA-ORD, Clermont SWCD hopes to continue to use the SWAT model as part of future programs so that we may focus conservation efforts where they are most needed.