Beginning Farmers Resources - pdf

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Nutrient Management

Agricultural Nutrient Management Program

Krista Mitchell, Nutrient Management Advisor for Howard County, works with Maryland producers to develop nutrient management plans that balance nutrient application rates with crop nutrient requirements, by incorporating soil and manure analyses, estimates of residual nitrogen, and realistic yield goals to generate field-by-field crop nutrient recommendations.  The ultimate goal of nutrient management plans is to protect the health of the Chesapeake Bay by reducing excessive nutrient applications from entering Maryland's waterways.

The Water Quality Improvement Act of 1998 requires all Maryland producers who make or exceed $2,500 gross annual income or who have 8 or more animal units (1 animal unit = 1,000 pounds live weight) to obtain and implement a nutrient management plan.  The Maryland Department of Agriculture is responsible for enforcing the regulations set forth by the WQIA.

The University of Maryland Extension's Agricultural Nutrient Management program, provides no-cost nutrient management plans, minus the cost of analyses, to Maryland farmers.  Nutrient Management Advisors are located at every UME county office throughout Maryland and also provide assistance with Fall Soil Nitrate Tests (FSNT) pre-sidedress nitrate tests (PSNT) for grain corn, yield checks, and equipment calibration.    For more information on the Nutrient Management Program, please contact Krista Mitchell, Nutrient Management Advisor.


Although the University of Maryland Soil Testing Lab has closed, there are many other labs available that conduct soil analysis. Not all lab's analysis units can be can be readily converted into University of Maryland values, and this is necessary to generate nutrient recommendations for a nutrient management plan. Producers will need to make arrangements with an approved soil testing lab to submit their soil samples. For more information, see our Comparison of Soil Test Labs bulletin.  This comparison provides MD producers who must obtain a nutrient management plan a list of approved labs that can be used for their nutrient management plan development.  Please note that specific sampling procedures need to be followed in order for these lab's analyses to convert to University of Maryland soil test values.  See Soil Sample Procedures bulletin for instructions. Producers required to obtain a nutrient management plan for their operation should follow these sampling procedures, rather than the lab's sampling instructions.


If you grow corn and forage legumes in rotation, have a history of manure applications, and have applied less than 50 pounds per acre of commercial fertilizer nitrogen to your corn this season, you may benefit from the PSNT.  The PSNT is an in-office analysis used to determine how much, if any, sidedress nitrogen is needed for your corn crop to achieve optimum yields.  Call your nutrient management advisor when your corn is 6-12 inches tall to schedule your analysis.


New nutrient management regulations, effective October 2012, require that farmers who plant wheat and barley for grain production must test for soil nitrate concentration before they may apply nitrogen (including manure or other organic nutrients) in the fall.  The FSNT can be run by your nutrient management advisor in-office or soil nitrate can be analyzed by a commercial soil testing laboratory.  Call your nutrient management advisor to schedule your analysis.


If your operation has tree fruit, brambles or blueberries, there is a small window of time to take plant tissue samples for your nutrient management plans. 

Timing for plant tissue sampling:

  • Grapes:  at full bloom
  • Blueberries:  1st week of harvest
  • Fruit trees:  July 15th - September 1st
  • Brambles:  August 1st - 20th

Contact your county’s nutrient management advisor for sampling instructions and a list of approved labs (also available on Nutrient Management Program website mentioned preciously) that conduct plant tissue analysis.  Soil samples should also be taken in the same area, in conjunction with the tissue sample.