Crop *A* Syst for Field Crop and Vegetable Producers (FAS110)


November 6, 2015 - Author: Allen Krizek

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In 2011, the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) was codified in law as set forth in P.A. 451, Part 82 of the Natural Resources & Environmental Protection Act (NREPA). The Crop◆A◆Syst tool is updated annually to incorporate the current MAEAP Standards for this system. The tool also includes applicable Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) established under Michigan Right to Farm. The completed A Syst tool and associated plan and practices meet the requirement of a Conservation Plan, as defined in Part 82 of NREPA and referenced in Part 87 of NREPA. This statute also ensures producer confidentiality for any information provided in connection with the development, implementation or verification of a conservation plan or associated practices and is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

Crop◆A◆Syst will assist a producer to develop and implement a management plan that prevents contamination of groundwater and surface water resources and maintains economic crop production. Practices will be consistent with identified Michigan Right to Farm guidelines and applicable state and federal environmental regulations.

Nutrients used in agricultural production come from chemical fertilizers and natural sources such as manure, legumes and biosolids (sewage sludge). All nutrients, whether synthetic or naturally occurring, can become mixed with surface water or groundwater by natural processes such as runoff and leaching. Nitrate contamination of groundwater and phosphorus contamination of surface water can be problems in Michigan. Crop◆A◆Syst will assess current nutrient management practices and identify alternative management practices that, when implemented, will reduce nutrient losses to the environment.

Virtually all crops produced in Michigan may be threatened by serious pest problems – weeds, insects and disease-producing organisms. Producers are encouraged to adopt pest management practices that achieve the desired commodity quality and yield while minimizing any adverse effects on non-target organisms, humans, and soil and water resources.

Crop◆A◆Syst will assess current pest management practices and identify alternative management practices that, when implemented, will reduce negative impacts to the environment.

The Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program is a comprehensive, proactive and voluntary agricultural pollution prevention program. It takes a systems approach to assist producers in evaluating their farms for environmental risks. Environmentally assured farms are eligible for various incentives and recognitions.

The Michigan Right to Farm Act authorizes the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development to develop and adopt GAAMPs for farms and farm operations in Michigan. These voluntary practices are based on available technology and scientific research to promote sound environmental stewardship. The current Right to Farm GAAMPs are posted on the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Web site:

Producers who complete the Crop◆A◆Syst assessment will be able to determine what management and record-keeping changes (if any) will be needed for their Cropping System to be environmentally assured through MAEAP. Once a producer develops and implements a Cropping System Improvement Action Plan to address the risks indicated by the Crop◆A◆Syst assessment, he or she can contact MDARD at 517-284-5609 to request a MAEAP Cropping System verification inspection. An MDARD inspector will schedule a site visit to complete the verification process.

P.A. 451, Part 82, ensures the confidentiality of the producer information provided to the MDARD for verification. Any information connected with the development, implementation or verification of a conservation plan or conservation practice is confidential.

The owner of a MAEAP verified Cropping System will be eligible for various incentives and can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing that Cropping System practices are consistent with the identified current Right to Farm GAAMPs. Verified Cropping Systems are positioned to achieve regulatory compliance with state and federal environmental laws.

Similar incentives are available for producers who have environmentally assured their other systems. Contact the local conservation district, MSU Extension or Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) representative for a list of currently available incentives and information on how to get started.

What is the Crop Assessment System?

The Crop Assessment System (Crop◆A◆Syst) is a series of risk questions that will help assess how effectively crop management practices protect groundwater and surface water resources. The risk questions are grouped in the following sections:

  • Cropping System Improvement Action Plan
    1. Nutrient Management Practices – General
    2. Soil and Water Conservation Practices
    3. Pest Management Practices
    4. Water Use Reporting
    5. Crop-specific Management Practices
    6. Pasture Management Practices
    7. Irrigation Management Practices
    8. Other Environmental Risks in the Cropping System

Each risk question assesses the impact of cropping practices on groundwater and surface water resources. The risk question answers indicate whether management practices have a low, medium or high risk of contamination. Producers are generally recommended to adopt the low-risk management practice.

Risk questions that address management practices that are regulated by state or federal law indicate illegal practices with black bold print. The numbered footnotes indicate what regulation(s) is (are) violated (refer to Table 2, page 40).

Risk questions that address management practices covered by the GAAMPs indicate a management practice consistent with a specific GAAMP with blue bold italic print.

Finally, a blue box indicates the management level(s) required for MAEAP verification.

MAEAP management requirements are aligned with state and federal environmental regulations. The GAAMPs and environmentally based agronomic management practices are supported by research. The records or evidence that indicate the approved management practices have been implemented on the farm are listed in the far right column. This evidence will provide the basis for awarding environmental assurance through MAEAP. Agricultural representatives (both public and private) can assist farmers to make the appropriate management changes to become environmentally assured through MAEAP.

How Does Crop ◆ A ◆Syst Work?

  1. Select all relevant risk question sections for the farm.
  2. Answer the risk questions by selecting the answer that best describes management practices used on the farm. Indicate the risk level in the column to the right. Skip any questions that don’t apply to the Cropping System. Note: for MAEAP verification, complete the risk questions with a Crop◆A◆Syst trained individual. MAEAP technicians are located in the conservation district offices
  3. After completing each section of risk questions, list the practices that present a high risk of contaminating groundwater and surface water resources in the Cropping System Improvement Action Plan (printed inside the front cover of the bulletin). Also include any medium-risk practices that do not meet MAEAP verification requirements.
  4. In the Cropping System Improvement Action Plan, list:
    • Management practice(s) that are planned for implementation that will reduce the identified risk.
    • Sources of technical and financial assistance.
    • Target dates for accomplishing the changes.
    • Target date for MAEAP verification of the Cropping System.

A Few Final Words

The key to Crop◆A◆Syst is that, once environmental risks are identified, the plan is implemented to reduce the risk(s). Some of the stewardship practices that will reduce risks may cost very little and take very little time to implement. Other practices may involve additional cost and may not be implemented for a few years. It is important, however, to have a plan to follow. Once a plan is developed and changes are implemented to address the risks, the farm is ready for MAEAP Cropping System verification.


Tags: agriculture, cover crops, field crops

Related Topic Areas

Agriculture, Cover Crops, Field Crops

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