Nutrient Management Planning

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Nutrient Management Planning is the management of the amount (rate), source, placement (method of application), and timing of plant nutrients and soil amendments. The purpose of Nutrient Management Planning is to:

  • Budget, supply, and conserve nutrients for plant production.
  • Minimize agricultural nonpoint source pollution of surface and groundwater resources.
  • Properly utilize manure or organic byproducts as a plant nutrient source.
  • Protect air quality by reducing odors, nitrogen emissions (ammonia, oxides of nitrogen), and the formation of atmospheric particulates.
  • Maintain or improve the physical, chemical, and biological condition of soil.

Financial Assistance for Nutrient Management Planning

As competition for VAAFM grants have increased and resources have been redeployed to new agricultural initiatives, the Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) Incentive Grant Program has been discontinued.
All farms interested in NMP financial assistance should contact their local NRCS office, or local Conservation District as soon as possible to discuss financial assistance opportunties.

Nutrient Management Planning: Land Treatment Planning

Land treatment planning is the foundation or required pre-requisite for a nutrient management plan (NMP).  It is a general resource inventory including mapping, a waste production calculation, soil loss estimates, a waste storage assessment, and conservation recommendations, from which a NMP is developed.  This program is provided at no cost to farmers and is made available through a partnership between the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Conservation Districts, and Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.
For more information, a list of planners, and their contact information, visit: or visit your local NRCS/Conservation District office.

Nutrient Management Planning for Small Farm Operations (SFO)

While Small Farm Operations are not required to maintain a Nutrient Management Plan to the USDA NRCS 590 Standard, they are still required to adequately care for and track nutrients on the operation. This includes the following:
  • All sources of nutrients shall be accounted for when determing nutrient applciaiton rates.
  • Recommended rates may be adjusted based on manure or other waste analysis and/or nutrient testing procedures.
  • Recommended nutrent application rates shall be consistent with current UVM Nutrient Recommendations for Field Crops in Vermont and standard agricultural practices. 
  • All fields recieving mechanical application of manure, agricutlural wastes, or fertilizer shall be soil sampled at least once in every five years using modified Morgan's extractant or other equivalent standards approved by the Secretary.
  • Records of soil analysis, manure or other agricultural waste application, and fertilizer applications shall be mainteined on the farm for a period of five years and provided to the Secretary upon request. 
  • Records of manure or other agricultural waste application shall contain:
    • date of application,
    • field location,
    • application rate,
    • source of nutrients applied, and 
    • weather and field conditions at the time of applicaiton.

Nutrient Management Planning for CSFO, MFO & LFO

All CSFO, MFO, and LFO shall have a field-by-field NMP developed by a certified nutrient management planner or the permittee.  Development and implementation of the nutrient management plan shall exceed the standards of Vermont Required Agricultural Practices and the Vermont USDA NRCS Nutrient Management Plan 590 Standard.

The components of a nutrient management plan include:

Field Maps & Land Base:

  • Include aerial site photograph(s)/imagery or site maps(s), and a soil survey map of fields that will receive application of manure, compost, other wastes, fertilizer, or any other source of nutrients;
  • Document site specific conservation practices to be implemented, including as appropriate buffers or equivalent practices, to control runoff of pollutants to waters of the state;
  • Field maps shall show buffer zones of perennial vegetation that shall be maintained between annual croplands and the top of the bank of adjoining surface waters, in order to filter out sediments, nutrients, pathogens, and agricultural chemicals and to protect the surface waters from erosion of streambanks due to excessive tillage;
  • Buffer zones next to adjoining surface waters shall be buffered from croplands by at least 25 ft of perennial vegetation;
  • Soil information including: soil type surface texture, pH, drainage class, permeability, available water capacity, depth to water table, restrictive features, and flooding and/or ponding frequency;
  • Location of designated sensitive areas and the associated nutrient application restrictions and setback.

Soil and Tissue Sampling and Testing:

  • Fields receiving mechanical application of nutrients shall have soil tested every three years (if MFO or LFO), and every five years (if SFO).
  • At least one third of all fields must have a soil test less than three years old when developing the nutrient management plan. A soil test 3-5 years old may be used for developing the nutrient management plan if application rates of nutrients will be planned at a rate no greater than the phosphorus removal rate and revised accordingly within 1 year based on current soil tests.
  • Soil samples shall be collected and prepared according to UVM guidance or standard industry practice.
  • Soil testing shall be conducted using Modified Morgan Extract for available phosphorus and aluminum.
  • Soil tests, at a minimum, shall include content of:
    • Available phosphorus;
    • Reactive aluminum; and,
    • pH.
  • If pertinent to monitoring or amending the annual nutrient budget, soil shall be tested for:
    • Electrical conductivity (EC); and/or,
    • Soil organic matter.
  • Plant tissue sampling and testing may be used in conjunction with soil tests. Where used, shall be done in accordance with UVM standards or recommendations.

Manure Sampling & Adequate Storage:

  • Every waste storage facility shall be sampled for nutrient content analysis prior to preparing the nutrient management plan.
  • Every waste storage facility shall be sampled for nutrient content analysis yearly and shall be representative of the waste stored.
  • Document adequate storage of manure, compost, and other wastes, including procedures to ensure proper operation and maintenance of the storage facilities;

Management of Production Area:

  • Document that confined animals within the production area do not have direct contact with waters of the state (if MFO or LFO);
  • Document proper management of mortalities (i.e., dead animals) to ensure that they are not disposed of in a liquid manure, stormwater, waste storage, or treatment system that is not specifically designed to treat animal mortalities; Document that clean water is diverted, as appropriate, from the production area; and,
  • Document that chemicals and other contaminants handled on-site are not disposed of in any manure, compost, waste, or stormwater storage or treatment system unless specifically designed to treat such chemicals and other contaminants;

Nutrient Application Rates:

  • Include recommended nutrient application rates and timing of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that must not exceed UVM guidelines or industry practice when recognized by the University.
  • Nutrient recommendations (lbs. N, P2O5, and K2O per acre) shall be made based on the University of Vermont Nutrient Recommendations for Field Crops in Vermont (and/or industry practice when recognized by the university) using current soil test results, realistic yield goals, and management capabilities. Other university recommendations for nitrogen and potassium, that are appropriate for the geographic area, may be used.
  • The timing and method of nutrient application shall correspond as closely as possible with plant nutrient uptake characteristics while considering cropping system limitations, weather and climatic conditions, and field accessibility.
  • Include current and/or planned plant production sequence or crop rotation;
  • Document recommended method and time of incorporation of manure, compost, and other wastes in accordance with site specific nutrient management practices that ensure appropriate agricultural utilization of the nutrients in the manure, compost, and other wastes, as appropriate.
  • All land receiving application of nutrients shall have a risk assessment for potential nitrogen transport into ground water using the Leaching Index. All land receiving application of nutrients shall have a risk assessment for potential phosphorus transport into waters of the state using the Vermont Phosphorus Index.
  • Nutrient applications shall be consistent with results of the Vermont Phosphorus Index.
  • Conservation practices for nitrogen management shall be recommended and implemented based on the results of the Leaching Index.
  • Soil amendments shall be applied, as needed, to adjust soil pH to the specific range of the crop for optimum availability and utilization of nutrients.
  • No manure, compost, or other wastes shall be applied within vegetative buffers.
  • Use of fertilizer for the establishment and maintenance of the vegetative buffer is allowed.

Soil Health Management:

  • Yearly soil loss shall not exceed T (of the dominant soil type) as determined by RUSLE 2 (Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation 2). If a rotation is needed to meet T, that rotation shall not exceed 10 years in length.
  • Tillage shall not occur in a vegetative buffer except for the establishment or maintenance of the buffer.
  • Harvesting the buffer as a perennial crop is allowed.
  • Other conservation practices shall be implemented as necessary to reduce runoff of pollutants to waters of the state.

Groundwater Requirements:

  • Private wells shall be protected by a 50 ft nutrient setback. Manure application, fertilizer application, and pasturing of livestock shall not occur within 50 ft of a private well.
  • When the Leaching Index is greater than 10 directly adjacent to a private well, the nutrient setback distance shall be increased to 100 ft.    

Record Keeping:

  • Soil, manure, and plant tissue test results shall be kept on-farm for a period of no less than 5 years.
  • Document dates, and method(s) of nutrient applications, source of nutrients, and rates of application;
  • Must include weather conditions and soil moisture at the time of application, lapsed time to manure incorporation, and rainfall or irrigation event;
  • Document crops planted, planting and harvest dates, yields, nutrient analyses of harvested biomass, and crop residues removed;
  • Indicate dates of plan review, name of reviewer, and recommended changes resulting from the review;
  • Identify all enhanced efficiency fertilizer products used.


Contact Information

Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

116 State Street
Montpelier, Vt 05620-2901

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