As Western Lake Erie Basin agronomists work with growers to plan for the 2015 growing season in the wake of the Toledo water crisis, many are thinking about products and services that can reduce the risk of phosphorus loss from cropland. When considering new practices, good information from a reliable source is crucial.

To that end, the IPM Institute of North America recently published the Phosphorus Loss Reduction Handbook for Agronomists. The handbook is intended for agronomists and their farmer clients to improve awareness of products and services that can reduce loss of soil, phosphorus and other agrichemicals from cropland. The publication is the result of the IPM Institute’s work with ag retailers and farmers to identify cost-effective products and services with potential for greater adoption.

The Handbook includes factsheets for agronomists to share with their clients on cover crops, variable rate technology, strip tillage and identifying “hot spots” for phosphorus loss from cropland. A fillable version of the factsheets allows agronomists to add their own contact information before sharing with customers.

Also included in the handbook are several resources on USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs that provide farmers with financial and technical assistance to make improvements on their land.  This assistance allows agronomists to work with farmers to implement practices that might otherwise pose a financial barrier.  Improving nutrient management planning, transitioning to reduced-tillage systems or repairing gullies or eroding stream banks can be eligible for NRCS support.

The Handbook also includes a sample Nutrient Management Conservation Activity Plan (CAP 104), developed by the IPM Institute and reviewed by NRCS in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.  Agronomists who provide nutrient planning services for farmers participating in NRCS programs will find this an invaluable reference tool as they write their own plans to meet NRCS standards for the Western Lake Erie Basin.

Farmers may sign up for financial assistance through NRCS programs at any time. Farmers in Ohio must submit applications by November 15, 2014 for consideration for funding in early 2015. Michigan and Indiana NRCS have not yet announced signups for 2015.

Additional information on NRCS programs can be found online at:

Ohio: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/oh/home/?cid=nrcs144p2_029505

Indiana: www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/programs/financial/eqip/

Michigan: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/mi/programs/financial/eqip/

Download the full Agronomist Handbook at http://partnershipfarm.org/agronomist-handbook/  Funding for the Handbook was provided by a grant from the Great Lakes Protection Fund, with additional funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.