MANAGEMENT AND CONSERVATION PRACTICES TO IMPROVE WATER QUALITY IN AGROECOSYSTEMS OF THE NORTHEASTERN US
Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research
Title: Developing a web-based forecasting tool for nutrient management
Submitted to: Proceedings of the Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: July 20, 2012
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Citation: Drohan, P.J., Buda, A.R., Kleinman, P.J., Miller, D., Knight, P.G., Beegle, D.B., Lin, H. 2013. Developing a web-based forecasting tool for nutrient management. Proceedings of the Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference. p. 249-254.
Modern nutrient management planning tools provide strategic guidance that, in the best cases, educates farmers and others involved in nutrient management to make prudent management decisions. The strategic guidance provided by nutrient management plans does not provide the day-to-day support required to make operational decisions, particularly when and where to apply nutrients over the short term. These short-term decisions on when and where to apply nutrients can make the difference between whether the nutrients impact water quality or are efficiently utilized by crops. Infiltrating rainfall events occurring on the heels of broadcast nutrient application are beneficial, as they wash soluble nutrients into the soil where they are used by crops. Rainfall events that generate runoff shortly after nutrients are broadcast wash off applied nutrients, producing the largest losses of nutrients possible from a site. This paper describes efforts to develop a research driven support tool for nutrient management, the Fertilizer Forecaster, which identifies the relative probability of runoff or infiltrating events in Pennsylvania (PA) landscapes. The Fertilizer Forecaster is intended to support field specific decisions by farmers on when and where to apply fertilizers and manures over 24, 48 and 72 hour periods. Development of the Fertilizer Forecaster involves: (1) monitoring of agricultural hillslopes in watersheds representing major Physiographic Provinces of the Chesapeake Bay basin; (2) validating a high resolution mapping model that identifies soils prone to runoff; (3) developing an empirically based approach that relates state-of-the-art weather forecast variables to site-specific rainfall infiltration or runoff occurrence; (4) testing the empirical forecasting model against alternative approaches to forecasting runoff occurrence; and (5) recruiting farmers to use web-based forecast maps in daily manure and fertilizer application decisions. Data from on-farm trials provide insight into the effectiveness of the Fertilizer Forecaster, and can be used to identify the characteristics of farmers with the greatest potential to benefit from such a tool. Feedback from on-farm trials will be used to refine a final tool for delivery to the PA Conservation Commission. We hope that the Fertilizer Forecaster will serve as the basis for state (PA), regional (Chesapeake Bay), and national advances in nutrient management planning.