Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering

590 Woody Hayes Dr., Columbus, Ohio 43210

Agricultural Best Management Practices


Larry Brown
Kris Boone
Sue Nokes
Andy Ward

The production of food and fiber often requires complex strategies that must balance profitable and efficient farming with water quality and quantity concerns.

Production options that consider both profitability and water quality are being studied at The Ohio State University. From work at Ohio State and other national universities and agencies, agricultural and production guidelines called "Best Management Practices," or BMPs, have been developed.

One of the goals of BMPs is to reduce degradation of water resources by agricultural practices. Potential sources of water quality degradation in Ohio include plant nutrients, pesticides and sediment.

BMPs focus on management of inputs to provide for economic, environmental and agronomic efficiency in production agriculture. Examples of BMPs include practices for the management of pests, nutrients and waste; vegetative and tillage practices, such as contour farming, cropping sequence and windbreaks; and structural practices, such as terraces, grade stabilization and sediment control basins. By incorporating a BMP or combination of BMPs into a farming system, a producer can transform a farm operation into a Best Management System for agriculture.

Sources of Water Pollution

One source of water-quality problems in Ohio is plant nutrients. Problems occur when nutrients from fertilizers and animal wastes are applied to farm land in quantities that exceed the amount used by the crop or the amount that can be held by the soil. Nitrogen and phosphorus are the nutrients most often associated with water-quality problems in Ohio, particularly in surface water. Nitrogen and phosphorus can move to surface water through runoff and subsurface drainage systems. The pollution of ground water by nitrogen is also a potential problem in Ohio. Effective nutrient management, in terms of application rates and timing, can reduce the potential for pollution.

When pesticides are incorrectly applied and move from their target site, potential exists for ground- and surface-water pollution. If pesticides travel downward through the soil, ground water can be contaminated. Ground water also can be polluted by direct introduction of pesticides through sinkholes, poorly constructed wells, and backsiphoning into wells. Surface waters are directly affected when pesticides move either through runoff or with eroded soil. Pest scouting and proper pesticide application timing and rates can reduce the pollution potential and improve pesticide effectiveness.

One other source of water resource pollution is sediment. However, through research and development work conducted over the past 50 years, effective soil, water and crop management systems have been developed to reduce soil erosion.

Choosing a BMP

Before choosing one or several BMPs to implement, producers should consider a balance between two factors: 1) Can the BMP achieve the water quality goal? and 2) Is the BMP economically feasible?

Information about local water quality goals can be obtained from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and local agencies and organizations, such as the Ohio Cooperative Extension Service (OSU Extension), the U.S. Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service (SCS), the Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), and local Boards of Health.

After reviewing all possible alternatives, the producer must make a decision about which BMP or combination of BMPs to implement. The BMP should be designed to meet realistic production goals, and tailored to the specific location.

Nationally recognized BMPs for addressing particular water quality concerns are highlighted on the back of this fact sheet. For more information about BMPs that are applicable to specific geographic areas and farming operations, contact your local offices of OSU Extension, SCS and SWCD. Two publications, Best Management Practices for Preventing Contamination of Ohio's Ground and Surface Waters (Bulletin 818), and Crop Production Alternatives (Bulletin 812), are available through your local Extension office.

NOTE: Because of the general nature of this chart, there may be situations and sites where practices will not perform as indicated. Depends on soil, crop, practice design, and management characteristics. Includes all appropriate structural, vegetative, and management characteristics.

Best Management Practices Summary Guide*
Best Management Practices Resource Concerns
Surface Water Quality Ground Water
Salinity Temperature Sediment Soluble Nutrients Absorbed Nutrients Soluble Pesticides Absorbed Pesticides Oxygen-
Demanding Substances
Pathogens Nutrients Pesticide Loss
Management Practices
Nutrient ManagementCCCAACCCCAC
Pest ManagementCCCCCAACCCA
Irrigation System, Tailwater RecoveryA?AAAAACC??
Irrigation Water Management ACAAAAACCBB
Regulating Water in Drainage SystemsB?CACACCC??
Soil Salinity ManagementACBBBBBCCCC
Structure for Water ControlCCACACBACCC
Water Table ControlB?CACACCC??
Waste Management System2CCAAACCAAAC
Runoff Management System2C?AAACCAAAC
Vegetative and Tillage Practices
Conservation TillageCCACACACC??
Contour FarmingCCABABABB??
Contour StripcroppingCCABABABBCC
Filter StripCCBCBCBBB??
Cover and Green Manure CropCBBBBBBCCBC
Conservation Cropping SequenceBCABABACCBB
Field WindbreaksCCBCBCBCCCC
Pasture and Hayland ManagementCBBCBCCBBCC
Field StripcroppingCCBBBBBCCCC
Grasses and Legumes in RotationCBBBBBBCCCC
Structural Practices
Water and Sediment Control BasinC?ACACABC??
Grade Stabilization StructureCCBCBCCCCCC
Grassed WaterwayCCBCBCBCCCC
Streambank and Shoreline ProtectionCAACACCBCCC
Wetland Development or RestorationCBABABAAB?C
A Medium to high effectiveness
B Low to medium effectiveness
C No control to low effectiveness
? May increase or decrease impact1
* Abstracted from USDA Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 598. NOTE: Because of the general nature of this chart, there may be situations and sites where practices will not perform as indicated.
1 Depends on soil, crop, practice design, and management characteristics.
2 Includes all appropriate structural, vegetative, and management characteristics.

This document is part of a series of educational materials designed to address issues critical to agriculture and water resources. Funding for this publication was provided by: The Ohio EPA 319 Nonpoint Source Program, and the Ohio Cooperative Extension Service, Department of Agricultural Engineering and College of Agriculture Interdisciplinary Program in Water Resources (IPWR) at The Ohio State University. The material presented in this publication was reviewed by the Ohio MSEA/IPWR advisory board. Abstracted from USDA Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 598.

All educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, disability or Vietnam-era veteran status.

Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.

TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-6181

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