The Berkshire County Nutrient Management Initiative program was designed to be a resource for farmers and landowners to understand the statutory nutrient regulations which strive to reduce excess nutrients washing into neighboring wetlands through runoff from lawns, pasture and farmland within Berkshire County, MA. This program was funded through the the Conservation District Innovative Grant Program of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Nutrient management is the process of managing the amount, source, timing, and method of nutrient application with the goal of optimizing farm and land productivity while minimizing nutrient losses that can create environmental problems. It includes developing nutrient budgets that begins with knowing the amounts of nutrients present in the soil, determining the amount of nutrients needed by the crop, accounting for all the potential sources of nutrients, and then applying manures, composts, irrigation water, or inorganic fertilizers as needed to meet the nutrient requirements of the crop. It also uses site management practices to increase or maintain soil quality to reduce the potential for erosion and nutrient transport into surface water or nutrient leaching into groundwater. Soil quality is an important component of nutrient management because it affects nutrient retention and water movement through the soil.
Environmental concerns have resulted in more emphasis on better nutrient management over the past few decades. While nutrient applications are critical to soil fertility management, they can also cause widespread environmental problems if not managed correctly.
Working with the USDA-NRCS, the District provided outreach to farmers and landowners to understand the regulations, how they are implemented and how they impact the landowner or farmer. The resulting environmentally sound practices can help them to hold those nutrients on their land, cycling them in a more natural way, rather than spending excess money on inputs.
While the funding for this program has ended, the District continues to work with farmers and landowners in assessing soil amendment needs, if any, through our No-Till/Healthy Soils Program. Through that program we are able to offer farmers subsidies for the cost of soil analysis and consultation in addition to reduced rates on renting the no-till seeder drill. Contact our No-Till/Healthy Soils Coordinator at [email protected] for more information.
The UMass Amherst Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory is currently accepting new orders for routine soil analysis.
The full requirements for plant nutrient applications can be found here.