Soil Conservation: Nutrient management

Submitted by Robert Schiffner, Resource Conservationist

Managing nutrients has always been a concern in both agricultural and non-agricultural settings. Production levels suffer if there are inadequate nutrients in the soil. Off-site water quality concerns can be a problem if there are excessive levels of nutrients in the soil. Learning how to manage nutrients at an optimum level will benefit both producers and communities.

Managing nutrients is an ongoing process. It is important to determine reasonable yield goals, test the soil to discover what nutrients are already available, and then apply nutrients to meet your crop needs. The timing of nutrient application can reduce loss potential, if the nutrients are applied all at once. There is a higher potential for loss before the plant can use the nutrients. Split applications can provide the plant with the proper nutrients when needed the most, and allows producers to adjust yield goals based on weather conditions.

Utilizing manure for nutrients is a way to reduce manure stockpiles and benefit crop production. However, this management of nutrients becomes more of a concern. In many cases, manure cannot be applied at levels low enough to meet crop nutrient needs, so stockpiling nutrients in the soil is commonly done when applying manure. This technique often increases the potential for the loss of nutrients. It is very important to test soils and manure prior to the applications of manure, then manage excess levels of nutrients through proper conservation practices.

There are two pamphlets developed by Kansas State University that can be very helpful in setting up a Nutrient Management Plan. These are “Soil Test Interpretations and Fertilizer Recommendations, MF-2586” and “Estimating Manure Nutrient Availability, MF-2562.” Your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office is also a source of information to help you get started, or help you assess your current plan. Remember nutrient management doesn’t cost, it pays.

For assistance, please contact your local NRCS office or conservation district office located at your local county U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Service Center, listed in the telephone book under “United States Government” or online at More information is also available on the Kansas website at Follow us on Twitter @NRCS_Kansas.


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