Nutrient management education project

John Creswell, formerly Iowa State (ISU) University Extension crops specialist, has been named coordinator for a new ISU Extension nutrient management education project. John has a B.S. in agronomy and Ph.D. in agricultural education from ISU and an M.S. in botany from Western Illinois University. John is an expert in providing educational programs for producers in sustainable agriculture practices and in training private pesticide applicators. He will use his expertise to develop programs that increase awareness of nutrient pollution issues and appropriate management practices that can be used to reduce contamination of surface water in Iowa.

The nutrient management education project will inform producers and agribusiness about research-based best management practices. The project also will provide producers and their agribusiness partners with the knowledge and resources required to adopt the appropriate management practices for their operations, including using soil conservation techniques, installing grass and forested riparian buffers along streams, restoring and reconstructing as well as maintaining wetlands, and using grassed waterways. Adoption of appropriate management practices will help producers enhance voluntary compliance with future regulatory requirements, including total maximum daily load (TMDL) restrictions. Best management practices also will help producers maintain long-term economic viability because inappropriate nutrient management reduces economic return.

More than 91 percent of Iowa's land is farmed, with 81.6 percent managed as cropland. Because nutrient and nonpoint source pollution in surface water is widely attributed to farm runoff, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently initiated a series of programs and actions under the Clean Water Act of 1972 that address the presence of nutrients (especially nitrogen and phosphorus) in surface water.

Although the Clean Water Act was designed for point source pollution (such as factory discharge pipes), under the rules proposed to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources by the EPA, Iowa must reduce its number of nonpoint source-impaired watersheds. In response to those rules, the Department of Natural Resources proposes that Iowa begin writing TMDLs by the end of 2003 on a watershed basis. EPA has already signaled that it will use its authority to mandate TMDLs if the Department of Natural Resources and Iowa producers are not making satisfactory progress.

Riparian buffers

The nutrient management education project will provide producers and their agribusiness partners with the knowledge and resources to adopt appropriate management practices, including the installation of grass and forested riparian buffers along streams, like this one at the Bear Creek National Buffer Demonstration Site.

TMDLs written for a watershed will include more than producers and agribusiness. Municipalities and other businesses within watersheds will work together with agriculture to propose a best management practice prescription that will bring the watershed into compliance with TMDL guidelines. And writing TMDLs on a watershed basis will mean that homeowners should be informed that the application of nutrients and pesticides in their yards and gardens has to the potential to contaminate surface water.

The nutrient management education project will

  • help Iowa producers and agribusiness develop an understanding of federal nutrient management programs and potential implications that may affect land management in watersheds
  • provide manure certification training to livestock producers and commercial manure applicators
  • supply data to evaluate economic and environmental concerns about nutrient use
  • inform the agribusiness community, including crop producers, livestock producers, agency personnel, nutrient management planners, service providers, and nutrient suppliers, about the importance of appropriate management practices and nutrient management education
  • work on best management practices for watersheds that include producers, agribusiness, municipalities, other businesses, and homeowners
  • give producers the knowledge and resources to adopt the entire group of best management practices, including using soil conservation techniques, installing grass and forested riparian buffers along streams, restoring or reconstructing wetlands, and using grassed waterways

What are total maxiumum daily loads (TMDLs)?

TMDLs were created under Section 303 (d) of the Clean Water Act and are the maximum amount, or "allowable budget" of contaminants that a lake, stream, or river can receive and remain within surface water quality standards established by the state. Each state develops TMDLs for all pollutants—both point source and nonpoint source.

Updated 01/30/2000 - 1:00pm