For decades, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has supported producers and landowners in addressing their nutrient management and water quality concerns. And efforts continue to refine strategies as more is learned through data in a recent report on cropland conservation outcomes from their Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP).
The report showed that despite many wins in conservation outcomes, there was an increase in soluble nitrogen and phosphorus lost to the environment nationally over a ten-year period. This increase was due to many factors, including changing trends in production, climate, and technology. Preventing nutrients from fertilizers and other sources from entering local waters ensures that they can be utilized by crops and benefits both water quality and farmer finances.
These findings can help NRCS more effectively support farmers nationwide by refining applied conservation to address site-specific risk for nutrient losses. In 2022, they developed a strategic operational plan to address these changing trends, enhancing existing nutrient management conservation efforts. This plan includes promoting SMART Nutrient Management planning and highlighting the importance of it.
NRCS is targeting funding for nutrient management, increasing program flexibilities, and expanding partnerships to support the development and implementation of nutrient management plans, and they will keep partners and producers informed as further improvements and updates are made.