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Will winter manure and fertilizer spreading be prohibited?

Will winter manure and fertilizer spreading be prohibited?

The answer is already "yes" in a growing number of states as efforts to reduce water pollution increase. Consider the latest from the Chesapeake Bay

Maryland agriculture's next-to-the-Bay location makes it the regulatory epicenter for the rest of the nation. There, nutrient management regulations aimed at cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay are the testing grounds for similar regulations elsewhere.

Late last week, Maryland Ag Secretary Joe Bartenfelder reminded farmers that winter nutrient applications are prohibited from November 16 through February 28. That restriction covers application of chemical fertilizer and organic nutrients, not just manure or chicken litter.

WINTER SPREADING? It may be a practice of the past in a growing number of state, and already is in Maryland.

And Bartenfelder noted that the blackout dates will change next year when Maryland's updated nutrient management regulations phase in for this practice. Currently, Maryland Department of Agriculture's nutrient management regulations also require stackable manure to be temporarily stored in a structure or stacked according to MDA's temporary field stockpiling requirements if storage isn't available.

The regulations outline specific situations in which non-stackable manure can be applied during winter months. An individual's nutrient management plan would reflect these conditions. Bartenfelder urges reviewing those plans carefully. 

Fall nitrogen limits
Fall nitrogen applications on small grains are prohibited if a fall nitrate test indicates levels greater than 10 parts per million for wheat or 15 ppm for barley. And, cover crops must be planted when organic nutrient sources are applied to fallow ground in the fall. 

"Maryland farmers are leaders in protecting our state's natural resources, especially the Chesapeake Bay" adds Bartenfelder. "Nutrient management plans serve as both an important crop management tool and an environmental protection tool. I encourage farmers to read and follow their plans."

To further protect water quality, beginning July 1, 2016, all nutrient applications will be prohibited between November 2 and February 28 for farms on the Eastern Shore and between November 16 and February 28 for farms on the Western Shore.

Farms with fewer than 50 animal units are exempted until March 1, 2020. Manure deposited directly by livestock isn't restricted at any time of year. 

Maryland farmers or nutrient applicators with questions about winter application of fertilizers should call their nutrient management consultant or regional MDA nutrient management specialist. The headquarters phone number is 410-841-5959. A full listing is provided online at resource_conservation farmer information.

TAGS: Harvest
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