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Nutrient Management Program Lab

Nutrient Management Program Lab

Southern Extension and Research Activity Information Exchange Group 6 (SERA-IEG-6)

Program: Diagnostic Testing and Standardized Nutrient Recommendation

Dr. Rao Mylavarapu had been elected as the Secretary (2004-2006), the Vice-Chair (2006-2008), and the Chair (2008-2010) of SERA-IEG-6 regional group and have the responsibility of leading the regional effort in Nutrient Management, development of diagnostic testing tools and reporting the technical details through regional publications on behalf of the group. Accurate and timely analysis of soils, plant tissue, water, and waste materials is critical, given the current emphasis on nutrient management and environmental quality.

These issues are of high priority at both the regional and national levels and have attracted the interest of land grant institutions, state and federal agencies, and various funding organizations. An effective nutrient analysis program serves not only commercial agriculture but also the general public by ensuring that fertilizers and soil amendments are used wisely. Due to changes in production practices, there is a continuing need to improve existing analytical methods and to develop new approaches and educational materials. It is crucial that IFAS participates in the regional efforts, shares knowledge, and develops educational material and policies that benefit the state.

Regulatory agencies are requiring that nutrient loading into Florida's eco-sensitive regions such as Okeechobee basin, Everglades region, and Suwannee basin be reduced to minimum possible levels and Total Daily Maximum Loads (TMDLs) and Numeric Nutrient Criteria are being set. It is therefore extremely critical that pertinent research and analytical procedures determining nutrient concentrations are packaged correctly to help guide and implement regional and local environmental policies.

Nutrient Management

Nutrient management has become increasingly important as the off-site movement of improperly applied commercial fertilizers and animal wastes has become evident. Major regional problems associated with nutrient loss such as hypoxia in the Mississippi River basin increased nitrate levels in the Suwannee and the St. Johns Rivers and high phosphorus levels in the Okeechobee Basin in Florida, etc. have resulted in both voluntary and mandated implementations of the Best Management Practices (BMPs).

The most recent of them are numeric criteria and specific TMDLs for impaired watersheds developed across the southern states to minimize the nutrient impacts. Most recent state soil testing programs are unable to conduct correlation/calibration studies and get needed support to adapt to potential changes and advances in crop varieties and/or cropping systems, in different agro-ecological environments.

Since the Southern region shares major physiographic features such as coastal plain soils and watersheds such as the Suwannee River Watershed that transcend political boundaries, the Southern Regional Water Quality Program under the USDA-NIFA (formerly USDA-CSREES) has been providing leadership through the Regional Nutrient Management Program for effective coordination of extension programs and educational events for minimizing nutrient-related impacts on the environment.

Pathogens, nutrients, and oxygen-depleting substances commonly associated with livestock and poultry waste are listed by EPA as three of the top five contaminants of concern for water quality. The situation only gets further complicated when the source of these nutrients is manure from Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) - (example: Lake Okeechobee and the Suwannee River Basins, where significant animal agriculture is present in Florida). Land application of these sources leads to accumulation and/or accelerated losses of N, P, and typically Cu and Zn. Therefore, water quality issues associated with animal production have received significant regulatory scrutiny as state and local regulatory agencies have expanded their authority to include these issues as associated with confined animal production.

The Animal Waste Management Team provides leadership and coordination in the Southern Region for providing educational and outreach programs disseminating accurate, scientific information about animal waste management to livestock and poultry producers, environmental groups, commodity organizations, and decision-makers, in the region. This objective strengthens the link between the southern land grant university system and federal/state/local agencies that are stakeholders in the nutrient management process on livestock farms and is another primary goal of the Southern Region Water Program.