University of Maryland Extension

Nutrient Management: Dealing with the Changes

Since the updated nutrient management regulations were introduced in October of last year, there have been changes in the way nutrient management plans are being written and implemented on farms.

Beginning with plans written this past spring, manure, biosolids, and other organic nutrient sources are required to be injected or incorporated into the soil within 48 hours of application. There are exceptions, however. If your land is designated as Highly Erodible Land on official NRCS maps, incorporation is not required. Many no-till producers who were initially concerned by the incorporation requirement are exempt because they are farming HEL land. To be exempt from the incorporation requirement, the NRCS maps showing HEL fields must be included in the nutrient management plan. Operators who have not yet updated their plans should request copies of their NRCS maps so they may be included in the nutrient management plan. 

An HEL status meets an exemption from incorporation. Other exemptions include spray irrigation on a growing crop and applications on permanent pastures and hay. Guidance can be found at and click on Nutrient Management.

This fall, additional regulations will become effective, which follow:

  • Fall application of nitrogen is prohibited on small grains if a fall nitrate test indicates levels greater than 10 parts per million (ppm) for wheat or 15 ppm for barley.
  • Cover crops must be planted when organic nutrient sources are applied in the fall
  • Farmers whose fields have a Fertility Index Value (FIV) of 150 or greater are required to use the new Phosphorus Management Tool to determine phosphorus rates for plans developed after July 1, 2013.

Source: Maryland Department of Agriculture Fact Sheet. “Maryland’s New Nutrient Management Regulations: What you Need to Know and Do to Comply.” March 26, 2013.

What does this mean for me?

New and updated nutrient management plans may require additional documentation such as to allow for an exception for incorporation of manure, a fall soil nitrate test (FSNT), and/or application of the Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT).  This means that more information may be required to develop a plan, and plan development will require more time. For example, the PMT may require additional information be included on your soil test report.

Since Maryland Department of Agriculture requires farmers to have plans in hand prior to any application, allow ample time for your advisor to develop a plan. As usual, current soil analyses, current manure analyses, and rotations are standard needs for any plan development. If you suspect you may need PSNT or PMT done, contact your advisor and get on the schedule soon. When field studies are needed, there is limited time between fall harvest and fall planting to get the needed information to develop a plan.

Yes, the law has changed, but with the help of your advisor you can still make the best choices for your operation. If you are looking for more information, fact sheets are available on Maryland’s New Nutrient Management Regulations as well as the FSNT. If you have questions or need to update your nutrient management plan for fall, call your Nutrient Management Advisor today.


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