Commercial fertilizer and livestock manure are recognized assets to agricultural operations that help meet crop production goals. Livestock manure has been used since the beginning of organized agriculture production. Both manure and commercial fertilizer contain several essential plant nutrients which contribute to crop yields when properly applied to soils. Agriculture producers must realize, however, the potential environmental risks of nitrogen and phosphorous from both commercial fertilizer and livestock manure reaching nearby surface and ground water from our "leaky" soils. To address and manage this risk, producers are advised to develop and implement Nutrient Management Plans and Manure Management Plans as part of their operation’s overall plan so both agronomical and environmental goals are met. (revised from the University of Minnesota Extension publication WW-03553 Manure Management in Minnesota).
Developing a Nutrient Management Plan benefits both producers and the environment. The proper amount of nutrients applied at the right time can result in substantial cost savings to producers. When plant nutrition is analyzed during critical growth times, it is ensured all necessary nutrients are available for optimum growth. Yields may suffer if these nutrients aren’t available when they are needed. Many producers who don’t soil test or keep track of nutrient application and plant nutritional needs apply both manure and commercial fertilizers, when, in fact, manure applications alone can sometimes be enough. Having a plan to manage both nutrients and manure can save producers from spending money on fertilizer that may not be needed. Producers actively planning and applying nutrient management plans benefit the water quality by minimizing run off and/or leaching. They also are able to benefit both themselves and the soil by decreasing the over use of commercial fertilizers and manure.