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Program Steers Farmers Away From Fall N

Program Steers Farmers Away From Fall N

USDA's EQIP conservation program has a new financial incentive that will reward Iowa farmers for applying nitrogen fertilizer in the spring instead of fall.

Under a new financial incentive structure announced for 2011, Iowa farmers who choose to apply commercial nitrogen fertilizer only in the spring will receive substantially more than those who apply nitrogen the fall.

Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, administered by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, farmers receive up to $20 per acre for implementing special, enhanced nutrient management plans. Farmers who have never implemented a nutrient management plan and choose the basic 590 nutrient management plan and opt to fall-apply commercial nitrogen fertilizer, will only receive $2 per acre. Manure-associated nitrogen may be applied.

"We need to encourage the best management practices for promoting water quality," says Rich Sims, state conservationist for NRCS in Iowa. "And waiting to apply commercial nitrogen in the spring minimizes nitrate leaching and runoff that can occur when applying fertilizer in the fall."

Amount of financial incentive you get depends on practices used

The fall application limitation includes nitrogen that is in phosphorous products like monoammonium phosphate and diammonium phosphate, says Eric Hurley, nutrient management specialist with NRCS in Des Moines. "If these phosphorous products are applied in the fall, the farmer isn't eligible for more than $2 per acre for using the nutrient management plan," he says.

The payment amount a producer can receive increases based on the number of enhancements he or she includes in the nutrient management plan which is part of the farmer's EQIP contract. These enhancements include:

• Applying manure based on phosphorus levels when Phosphorus Index is low or very low.

• Applying manure or commercial fertilizer at variable rates within a field, based on soil tests, OR using site-specific nutrient applications through GPS and variable rate nutrient applications.

• Planned use of the late spring nitrate test to evaluate nitrogen management according to ISU publication PM1714, and documenting how management decisions were made.

• Using legumes, other than soybeans, in crop rotations.

• Planting cover crops.

• Using the fall stalk nitrate test to evaluate nitrogen and make necessary adjustments to application rates.

• Using in-season plant tissue test and then making necessary adjustments to application rates.

• Nitrogen is not applied to pastures until after July 15—if at all.

• Using split application when applying more than 60 pounds of nitrogen to a pasture with more than 30% legumes.

• Using slow release nitrogen, like a polymer-coated urea.

• Injecting manure using low disturbance with a minimum spacing of 30 inches, without covering disks.

By selecting a minimum of two enhancements and waiting to apply commercial nitrogen in the spring, a farmer implementing a new 590 nutrient management plan can increase his or her payment more than 500% from $2 per acre to $11 per acre.

The following chart is a breakdown of EQIP nutrient management payment options:

EQIP Nutrient Management Option

Standard $/Acre

New Plan—allows Fall N application


New Plan—no Fall N application +2 enhancements


New Plan—no Fall N application + 4 enhancements


Existing Plan—no Fall N application + 2 enhancements


Existing Plan—no Fall N application + 4 enhancements


Strip field trials of alternative nutrient management practices


For more information about your EQIP nutrient management options, visit your local NRCS office.

TAGS: Soybean
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