The MDA regulates the use, storage, management, and licensing of fertilizers and soil/plant amendments. In addition, we work to provide resources and guidelines to help farmers maximize yield while also protecting our water resources.
Fertilizers are provided to promote plant growth. They provide in varying proportions the elements nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). These along with calcium, magnesium and sulfur are commonly referred to as "macronutrients". Macronutrients are consumed in large quantities by plants. Calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are provided to plants via the application of manure and lime. Ag lime is considered a "soil amendment" and is used to adjust the acidity of the soil.
To a much lesser degree, plants need boron, manganese, iron, zinc, copper, molybdenum, nickel and chlorine. These are referred to as "micronutrients". Most Minnesota soils naturally contain sufficient amounts of micronutrients for good plant growth.
Groundwater Protection Rule
The Groundwater Protection Rule minimizes potential sources of nitrate pollution to the state’s groundwater and protects our drinking water. The rule restricts fall application of nitrogen fertilizer in areas vulnerable to contamination, and it outlines steps to reduce the severity of the problem in areas where nitrate in public water supply wells is already elevated.
Anhydrous ammonia (NH3) is an efficient and widely used source of nitrogen fertilizer. It is relatively easy to apply and is readily available to producers. However, if not handled properly NH3 can be dangerous. Guidelines and rules are in place to keep the community and individuals safe.
Fertilizer application, storage, registration
State statutes guide the application, storage, and registration of fertilizer products. These vary slightly by fertilizer type and include soil and plant amendments.
Fertilizer use & Sales reports
Our agency reports the amount of registered fertilizer product sold in the state and we survey farmers to determine how fertilizer was used in the state each year. In addition there are a number of programs and resources available to assist with Nutrient Management.
Guidelines/tools to help protect groundwater
The placement and timing of a fertilizer application (manure or inorganic) as well as the rate and source of fertilizer can impact crop yield and water quality. The following programs and tools were designed to help determine the best strategy to enhance yield and stewardship.
Nutrient Management Initiative
Nitrogen Fertilizer Best Management Practices
Certified soil testing laboratories
Certified manure testing laboratories
Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan (NFMP)
Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast
Soil temperature network
There is an extensive body of research documenting that nitrate from nitrogen fertilizer can leach below the root zone and migrate to groundwater. Our agency works with local units of government and private well owners to monitor nitrate in drinking water wells. Our emphasis is placed on those areas of the state where groundwater is most vulnerable.
Clean Water Fund Programs
The MDA is using Clean Water Fund dollars to support a variety of programs, projects and activities. Funds are used to broaden our understanding of water quality and water related issues. Projects include on-farm and academic research, water monitoring and funding mechanisms to assist farmers.
Farmer-led soil fertility research (AFREC)
The Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education Council (AFREC) offers funding to advance soil fertilizer research, technology development and education. Funds are awarded through a Request for Proposal process.