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Nutrient Management Program

Nutrient Management Program

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the UF/IFAS Nutrient Management Program?

UF/IFAS is conducting research into the application of nutrients (fertilizers) to commercial vegetables and fruit in order to update their standardized recommendations for fertilizer rates. These recommendations form the basis of Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) which Florida growers use to control the amounts of fertilizers going into the soil.
During the 2022 Florida legislative session, $8.75 million in funding was allocated for UF/IFAS to conduct research and update fertilizer recommendations (SB 1000 and HB 5001). This is an unprecedented commitment to updating fertilizer recommendations in the State of Florida.

The UF/IFAS Nutrient Management Program website is designed to be a one-stop-shop for all information relating to the latest nutrient research, recommendations and BMPs.

Why is UF/IFAS updating its nutrient recommendations now?

In many cases, the recommendations that form the basis of BMPs are based on research that is decades old. Soil and climatic conditions have changed dramatically over that period, as well as our understanding of environmental impacts of nutrients on soil and water quality. UF/IFAS is continually conducting research in nutrient applications—the Florida legislature just gave it a major boost to bring BMPs in line with today’s conditions.

Growers also need recommendations that are specific to the conditions and soil types where they grow their crops. The state legislature has tasked UF/IFAS with developing site-specific recommendations.

What research projects are underway?

Currently there are 14 research projects tied to the legislative funding underway throughout Florida. Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) are the main subjects of study, which measures how specific crops respond to these nutrients at various rates on various sites under specific conditions. The crops under initial study are potatoes, tomatoes, citrus, grain corn, and green beans—the “big 5” crops that are especially important to Florida’s economy. In addition, hemp, forage grass, watermelon, and low-chill peaches are also part of the study, and more are planned for the future. Many of these research projects are taking place on commercial growers’ own farms. This way growers can learn as studies progresses.

What is the process for updating recommendations?

Recommendations are reviewed by the UF/IFAS Plant Nutrient Oversight Committee (PNOC). The committee is comprised of the Dean for Research, the Dean for Extension, and a panel of leading UF/IFAS scientists and Extension faculty. Its role is to provide a standing authority to define and maintain the internal consistency and scientific integrity of IFAS nutrient management recommendations for agricultural and horticultural crops.

Research scientists approach PNOC with their research results and present their evidence for a new or interim/provisional recommendation. The committee reviews the research and approves the recommendation or calls for further study. Approved recommendations are forwarded to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), which governs the implementation of BMPs.

What are provisional recommendations?

Provisional or interim recommendations are recommendations that are approved by the PNOC committee for a limited time. The state funding for this study (SB 1000) stipulates that UF/IFAS provide interim recommendations for nutrient management. The timing of recommendations is critical for growers. If there are changes to recommended fertilizer rates, they need to know about them before the planting season.

How long do provisional recommendations last?

All provisional recommendations are stamped with the date they were released. Provisional recommendations for each crop are meant to be in effect until the end of that crop’s growing season, after which they’re either renewed or replaced by new recommendations. If a new recommendation is approved by PNOC, it will supersede the provisional recommendation.

What are Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)?

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) are practical measures that producers can take to reduce the amount of fertilizers, pesticides, animal waste, and other pollutants entering our water resources. They are designed to improve water quality while maintaining agricultural production. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has adopted BMPs for most commodities in the state. Each BMP manual covers key aspects of water quality and water conservation. Typical practices include:

  • Nutrient Management to determine nutrient needs and sources as well as manage nutrient applications (including manure) to minimize impacts to water resources.
  • Irrigation Management to address the method and scheduling of irrigation to reduce water and nutrient losses to the environment.
  • Water Resource Protection using buffers, setbacks, and swales to reduce or prevent the transport of sediments and nutrients from production areas to waterbodies.

Why should growers use BMPs?

  • Implementing (and maintaining) verified FDACS-adopted BMPs provides a presumption of compliance with state water quality standards for the pollutants addressed by the BMPs.
  • Some BMPs can help you operate more efficiently and reduce costs, while you help protect the environment.
  • Producers who implement FDACS-adopted BMPs might satisfy some water management district (WMD) permitting requirements. Check with your WMD.
  • With some exceptions, the Florida Right to Farm Act prohibits local governments from regulating an agricultural activity that is addressed through rule-adopted BMPs that producers are implementing.
  • The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is developing Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) to meet adopted water quality targets called Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). Where FDEP adopts a BMAP that includes agriculture, producers must either implement FDACS-adopted BMPs, or conduct monitoring (prescribed by FDEP or the water management district) to show they are not violating water quality standards. This type of monitoring is very expensive.

How do growers participate in BMPs?

  • Schedule a meeting with a BMP team member, who will provide a free FDACS BMP manual and other BMP-related information.
  • Participate with the coordinator in a free assessment of your operation to determine which BMPs apply to you.
  • Fill out a BMP checklist and sign the Notice of Intent (NOI) to implement the BMPs.
  • Keep a copy of the checklist and signed NOI in your records.
  • Implement and maintain the applicable BMPs and keep adequate records to maintain a presumption of compliance with state water quality standards.