From: Lori Steckervetz <>
Subject: BMP CHALLENGE Update
  August 7, 2007
In This Issue
Manure Applications and the BMP CHALLENGE Help Spread the Savings
2007 BMP CHALLENGE Enrollment Update
Upcoming Events
Manure Applications and the BMP CHALLENGE Help Spread the Savings 
"Dad, why aren't you cutting your commercial fertilizer rates this spring to account for the chicken manure you applied last fall?" 
"How do I know how many of those nutrients are still there?"
This excerpt is from a real conversation between an Ohio corn and soybean producer and his agronomist son just prior to planting in 2006.  Dad was worried that the nutrients in the fall-applied manure may not be there in the amounts predicted by nutrient management planning.  Is he right to be concerned?
Nutrient management planning is a science-based approach built on multiple-year results from experimental plots and sometimes farm fields as well.  The aim is to optimize returns to farmers over time, so that on average, more dollars go into the farmer's pocket. Ohio State University would have recommended a reduction in commercial fertilizer by 50 lbs. of N and 60 lbs. of P per acre to account for the value of nutrients in the chicken manure.
Does that mean that each and every year a corn farmer can expect maximum yields by following university recommendations?  Absolutely not!  In any one year, weather conditions can increase or decrease the amount of nutrient preserved or lost over the long winter.  Errors in calculation, in calibrating manure spreaders or estimating nutrient content in manures can de-optimize the equation.
However, on average, university recommendations for crediting nutrients in manure should win out as the most economical.  Yields may suffer in some years, but over time cash returns are higher.
Our results with nearly 100 farmers over the past several years bear university recommendations out.  On average, university-recommended nutrient rates generate a break-even return - farmers do just as well financially with university recommendations than if they had continued to apply extra nutrients.  To date, participating farmers have cut their nitrogen rates by 24% or 41 lbs. per acre, and earned just as much net income from their corn crop.
As an Extension agent, crop advisor, watershed program manager or other key influencer of farmer practices, how can you effectively respond to concerns about yield and economic returns when recommending nutrient management?
Try the BMP CHALLENGE!  Designed for farmers who want extra assurance, the BMP CHALLENGE provides a financial safety net.  
The program is simple.  The farmer agrees to follow university-recommended rates which are calculated by a crop advisor.  The advisor also helps set out a check strip in the field that will be fertilized at the farmer's traditional rates.  At harvest, the crop advisor works with the farmer to assess yield and calculate net returns.  If net returns are less for the BMP rate, the farmer receives a cash payment to make up the difference.
Farmers can enroll one or more fields for one or several seasons to gain familiarity with how university recommendations perform on their farm.  The goal is to give farmers a risk-free opportunity to experiment in their own fields, on their own farm.  This "trialability" is a key advantage for creating behavior change in any field, not just agriculture.
Consider adding the BMP CHALLENGE to your toolbox when working with corn producers to achieve conservation and economic goals. 
Great prospects for participation include corn producers who do not credit nutrients contributed by manure applications, which is about 25% of corn producers, according to a 2005 survey by the University of Northern Iowa.
The BMP CHALLENGE is available for corn producers using nutrient management for manure and/or commercial fertilizer, or conservation tillage.   Contact Lori at 608 663-4697 for more information.
2007 BMP CHALLENGE Enrollment Update
More than 4,000 corn acres are enrolled in the BMP CHALLENGE for the 2007 season, allowing farmers to test nutrient management and reduced tillage on their own fields, without risk.  The program is available in thirteen states and is a good recruitment tool for watershed groups, conservation districts and crop advisors working with corn farmers.
Get started today!
Check out the BMP CHALLENGE website to find out more information regarding enrollment.  Fall applications of fertilizer and manure, and fall tillage will be considered only under certain conditions. 
Test BMP practices on your fields and see the savings!  BMP CHALLENGE can help ensure your savings, find out how!
Visit us at for application forms and more information.
Upcoming Events
On Tuesday, August 21, 2007, the Clear Creek Watershed will host a Nutrient Management Workshop near Conroy, Iowa.  The workshop will offer producers within the watershed an opportunity to discuss nutrient and tillage concerns with ISU Extension and NRCS staff.  Presentations will address manure testing and application techniques, N and P testing strategies and the BMP CHALLENGE.
For more information on the Clear Creek Watershed project or the Nutrient Management Workshop, visit for contact information. 
Additional upcoming events can be found at the BMP CHALLENGE website at
Lori Steckervetz, Project Coordinator
Phone: 608-663-4697
Are you or your clients currently using manure and interested in the BMP CHALLENGE?
No problem.  The BMP CHALLENGE is a great option to encourage corn farmers to fully credit nutrients from manure.
Use available manure resources effectively
For many farmers, manure is a waste product of uncertain value.  Proper crediting reduces farmer costs by cutting commercial fertilizer application rates to account for the manure contribution.  With the help of a qualified crop advisor, the farmer can calculate how much commercial fertilizer, if any, to apply.  The BMP CHALLENGE provides a safety net, compensating any participating farmer who loses net income after following the recommendation.
What's the nutrient value of my manure?
Manure nutrient content varies greatly between sources, such as beef or dairy cattle, poultry or swine.  Major differences occur between solid and liquid manures.  University recommendations address these differences.  A competent crop advisor can interpret these recommendations to create an accurate plan for each field from any source, including manure sampling and analysis when necessary.
Phosphorous is the most  over-applied nutrient when manure is used. When nutrients are not credited properly, the likelihood of over-application increases, which increases costs and invites contamination of ground and surface water. 
Are all of the nutrients in manure available to corn plants?
An initial application of manure may only result in 55% to 70% of the total nutrients in the manure becoming available to plants immediately.  During the second year, an additional 20% to 25% may become available, with 5% to 10% becoming plant-available during the third year.  Nutrient management plans for manure take timing of availability into account.
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