In areas where the groundwater is vulnerable to nitrate contamination, following nitrogen fertilizer best management practices (BMPs) may not be enough to reduce the amount of nitrate leaching into groundwater to meet water quality goals. In these cases, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) encourages farmers to consider practices and activities that go beyond traditional nitrogen fertilizer BMPs. In many cases these practices are developed and used by farmers and implemented in ways that are relevant for local conditions and opportunities. The MDA will work with the local agricultural community to encourage and incentivize their use. The MDA will also continue to work toward providing technical and financial resources regarding the effectiveness of these alternatives.
Below is a list of practice examples arranged by general categories. It is not intended to be an all-inclusive list, but rather to provide examples of activities the MDA may consider as alternative practices. There may be other practices that MDA would consider on a case-by-case basis.
Farmers have many choices of alternative practices that may fit into their operation. All of these have one thing in common: they are potential science based solutions that can prevent and mitigate nitrate in groundwater.
Alternative cropping systems or low nitrogen input crops can reduce nitrogen input needs and/or increase uptake of nitrogen. Increasing continuous cover can be accomplished by diversifying crop rotations, adopting perennial cropping systems and incorporating cover crops.
A combination of practices protecting water quality is normally required to be certified through the MAWQCP. Obtaining certification is therefore considered adequate and appropriate as an alternative practice.
The MDA will identify opportunities to collaborate with other agencies, industry, and non-governmental organizations through existing programs and develop new partnerships to foster the development and establishment of alternative practices that address nitrogen fertilizer management.
Fertilizer Technical Unit Supervisor
Pesticide & Fertilizer Management Division