Michigan releases new nutrient management tool

The Michigan State University EnviroImpact Tool will help all Michigan livestock producers work to improve water quality.

A new tool focusing on agricultural nutrient management has been developed through a partnership between the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, the Michigan State University Institute of Water Research, Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension. The MSU EnviroImpact Tool is a new online tool that provides maps showing short-term runoff risks for daily manure application planning purposes—taking into account factors such as precipitation, temperature, soil moisture and landscape characteristics. Farmers handling and applying livestock manure in Michigan can use this tool during any time of year to determine how risky it will be to spread manure on their fields.

“The MSU EnviroImpact Tool, jointly funded by MSU and MDARD, provides the latest technology in weather forecasting at the fingertips of Michigan farmers,” said MSU Extension Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute Director Dr. Ronald Bates. “This online, mobile-friendly tool helps farmers assess their risk of possible runoff as they develop their manure spreading schedules. Farmers have the ability to adjust their management plans if a rainfall event on particular fields is imminent—enabling them to make better management decisions and improve their ability to protect Michigan’s water quality.”

The MSU EnviroImpact Tool is part of a multi-state regional effort to improve “Runoff Risk Decision Support” tools. Supported by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the NWS North Central River Forecast Center (NCRFC) is working to expand and improve the runoff risk tools for the Great Lakes region, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio. Runoff Risk Decision Support tools are a unique example of collaboration between federal and state agencies, universities, and the agricultural industry to develop real-time tools and provide guidance to help address the issue of nutrient application timing.

“NOAA and the NWS are excited to be an integral partner with the Great Lakes states in the development of runoff risk tools for agriculture producers and nutrient applicators,” said Steve Buan, Hydrologist in Charge with NOAA NCRFC. “Effective collaboration among the partners has resulted in the validation of NOAA/NWS environmental forecast capabilities with on-farm research gathered across the region. Adoption of this runoff risk tool in Michigan, as well as the other Great Lakes states, will result in both economic savings for producers as well as improved water quality from the local level all the way to the Great Lakes.”

While the purpose of this tool is to help reduce the risk of applied manure leaving agricultural fields, it is very important that farmers also follow Manure Management Plans and assess the risk for each field prior to manure applications. Livestock producers and manure applicators can contact their local Conservation Districts or MSU Extension for help in developing a Manure Management Plan. Another resource for making manure application decisions is MDARD’s Right to Farm Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices for Manure Management and Utilization.

“This initiative helps provide farmers with the latest tools necessary for farming profitably while reducing risks to Michigan’s environment,” said Joe Kelpinski, Manager of MDARD’s MAEAP program. “The MSU EnviroImpact Tool, coupled with tools like the ‘Manure Application Risk Index’ and the ‘Winter Manure Spreading Risk Based Decision Making Tool,’ will give producers a suite of tools to apply manure to their fields and satisfy crop production needs more efficiently, effectively, and safely.”

In the coming months, partners will continue to reach out to farmers, manure applicators, and others to increase awareness of this new beneficial tool. Those interested in viewing or using the MSU EnviroImpact Tool can visit enviroimpact.iwr.msu.edu.

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