Nutrient Management Plans as Tools to Achieve Sustainable Animal Waste Utilization

Final Report for ES00-049

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2000: $83,056.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
Stephen Coleman
Kentucky Division of Conservation
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Project Information


EPA CAFO rules, NRCS nutrient management standards, nutrient management requirements in Kentucky’s Agriculture Water Quality Plan, along with increasing public concerns all point to the need for trained educators and technical advisors who can educate producers about correct nutrient management and animal waste utilization. Farmers are being challenged to use new technologies to design and implement effective nutrient management plans. In Kentucky, new management tools, practices, and corrective measures relating to managing animal waste are evolving at a record pace. This project provides for classroom training and practical field exercises for agriculture professionals and advisors throughout Kentucky who guide farmers in developing nutrient management plans. Nutrient management training materials provide tools for preparing nutrient management plans that provide for effective and economic animal waste handling and utilization systems.

Project Objectives:

To organize a Nutrient Management Focus group made up of twelve representatives from government agencies and commodity groups to plan, prepare and present nutrient management training statewide.

To provide a forum for interaction among agriculture trainers, advisors, and leaders to study and discuss issues relating to nutrient management and its relationship to the environment and to sustainable agriculture.

To provide training and present developments in new technology for Technical Service Providers, Cooperative Extension Service (CES) County Agents and Specialists, Kentucky State University (KSU) Small Farm Assistants, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) District Conservationists, other private consultants and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in nutrient management planning and animal waste management.

Farmers will be provided with current technical and integrative informational tools which will assist them in developing nutrient management plans that meet the requirements of the Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations regarding the Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) the Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Plan and the USDA/NRCS 590 Nutrient Management Standards.


Kentucky faces a growing concern with nutrient management issues. The growth in the poultry industry in Kentucky has heightened public awareness of potential problems with animal manure disposal. Similar growth and concerns are also anticipated in the beef industry. In response to mounting threats to the tobacco enterprise as a reliable source of farm income, many producers are likely to expand livestock herd size to replace lost revenue. Farms are under pressure to expand, and attractive contracts are being offered in some regions to producers who are willing to expand production levels. New state laws regarding environmental quality have been enacted, and changes continue in technical guidelines and standards for nutrient management. Expenditures of the State Cost Share funds for agricultural best management practices (BMPs) have increased dramatically in recent years, and the primary concern addressed is animal manure. Nutrient and pathogen runoff from agricultural sources has been identified as a principal cause of use impairment for a number of streams in Kentucky resulting in total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) being established for these streams.

Helping producers manage nutrient sources is becoming a top priority in Kentucky. Proper nutrient management captures the value of the resource while minimizing the effects of nutrient and pathogen runoff. A good educational and marketing product targeted to the producer is needed to increase awareness and adequately address nutrient management issues.

The overall goal of this project is to reduce nutrient and pathogen runoff from agricultural sources, to improve the profits and sustainability of Kentucky's farms, and to increase the producer's awareness and understanding of the importance of fundamental nutrient management planning.


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  • Jimmy Henning
  • David Sawyer

Education & Outreach Initiatives



The training was consistent with the University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture's State Strategic Sustainable Training Program. This project's strength stemmed from early and active involvement of the partnership between the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, Kentucky State University, and Kentucky Division of Conservation in the design and implementation of the training.

State and national progress in the development and implementation of a unified nutrient management plan was incorporated into the training.

Steps followed and outputs produced:
A nutrient management focus group was formed to design, prepare and implement the program.
A nutrient management manual was developed and presented to each trainee.
Workshops and on-site tours were conducted during two-day training sessions held across Kentucky.

Training opportunities were delivered in two different settings over a two-day period.

Day One:
Classroom seminars included theoretical and practical principles, computer software to assess nutrient management needs, and planning guidelines using case studies.

Day Two:
On-site locations planning and demonstrations that allowed participants to observe successful nutrient management operations and to learn from the agriculture producer's perspective.

Training included case study exercises, field training and use of printed resource materials.

Agency representatives, agri-businesses and state commodity leaders from livestock enterprise groups were included in the planning and development of training curriculum. All regions of the state were involved.

A nutrient management videotape was produced that includes on-farm interviews showing nutrient management programs that work.

Web sites were developed and referenced to facilitate the training.

A nutrient management guide and a basic guide for preparing a nutrient management plan were developed for distribution.

Outreach and Publications

Nutrient Management Manual
Loose-leaf notebook includes copies of the entire course materials and pertinent Extension nutrient management materials.

Nutrient Management Video
Includes guidelines for preparing a nutrient management plan and on-farm interviews with farmers demonstrating successful planning ideas.

Nutrient Management in Kentucky Publication (IP71)
Provides scientific information that supports correct nutrient management. This publication may be accessed at the following web page:

Nutrient Management Planning Guidelines to comply with the Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality. Act (ENRI-136) may be accessed at:

NRCS 590 Standards for Kentucky: Nutrient Management Documents and Technical References | NRCS

Outcomes and impacts:

The primary objective of this project was to move the entire state of Kentucky from an animal manure disposal mindset to a practice of nutrient management recycling. This can lead to the reduction of pollution of the streams of the Commonwealth and result in more sustainability of our farming operations.

Under the umbrella of the Nutrient Management Focus Group, in cooperation with the Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Authority, federal EPA, USDA, and state regulations were incorporated under one, coordinated educational program.

This SARE project, which emphasizes nutrient management planning as a tool to correctly utilize animal manure and promote farm sustainability, could not have been timelier. While meeting the requirements of Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Plan, Kentucky farmers had the one-time opportunity in 2001 and 2002 to utilize the court ordered tobacco settlement funds to enhance conservation practices thereby reducing soil loss and water pollution. In addition, in 2001, the USDA 590 national standard for nutrient management was adopted for Kentucky. Also, in 2002, the EPA rule for confined animal feeding operations became effective which provides requirements for the production and utilization of animal manure.

Due to the complexity of the subject and the dire need to get this information to the more than 10,000 grass root farmers as efficiently as possible, more workshops and on-farm training exercises were planned. Approximately 400 agency and other agri-business representatives, educators and farm leaders were trained in nutrient management requirements at eight different classroom sites and on two different Land Grant research farm sites.

The training was divided into three parts plus additional NRCS on-line training opportunities:

Part One – Basic soil and nutrient science and fundamentals. This course may also be accessed on line at

Part Two – Discusses state and federal policies and regulations and their relationship to nutrient management. Nutrient management planning was also introduced.

Part Three – A more complex level of preparing comprehensive nutrient management plans from large scale CAFO operations including field exercises to learn about the phosphorus index requirements.

This SARE PDP program has provided timely support and assistance to address challenging nutrient management and animal waste issues in Kentucky. Recent revisions to the Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Plan require agriculture or silviculture producers (of tracts 10 acres or greater) who apply nutrients to their crops develop and implement a nutrient management plan consistent with the NRCS Nutrient Management Standard practice code 590. The resulting information and training needs were further complicated by significant subsequent revisions to the NRCS Nutrient Management Standard.

This SARE PDP program provides a forum for the strengthening of partnerships among the various agencies involved with nutrient management in Kentucky. A key contribution of this program has been to ensure the nutrient management information and assistance that producers receive is both accurate and consistent. Participation in the development program has already exceeded the originally envisioned program and additional meetings are scheduled.

This SARE PDP program has also supported or served as a catalyst for other nutrient management related initiatives within the state. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is funding the production of a video and funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is being used for the development and distribution of a color publication. These additional tools promote awareness and understanding of the importance and benefits of nutrient management planning. These materials are being incorporated into the PDP program, as they are developed, to assist resource professionals and advisors with information outreach activities.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Because of the statewide multi-agency involvement required to accomplish the project objectives, a nutrient management focus group consisting of representatives of key partner agencies and organizations was formed. This focus group was primarily instrumental in planning, organizing, and implementing the project training initiatives. Additional information about the Kentucky Nutrient Management Focus Group can be found at:

Training was originally planned to be delivered during three, two-day training sessions. Subsequent changes relating to nutrient management requirements in the Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Plan and emerging, nation-wide emphasis on the NRCS nutrient management standard (Code 590) greatly affected animal waste utilization and nutrient management planning for producers in Kentucky. Due to these changes, an increased number of program participants and additional training requirements were evident. The nutrient management training program was greatly expanded.

The core of the nutrient management training curriculum advanced to consist of the following three parts:

Part I - The Science of Nutrient Management
Part II - Policies and Regulations related to Nutrient Management in Kentucky
Part III - Field Practicum and Planning Exercise

The initial Part I (science) training session was conducted on November 9, 2000 at the University of Kentucky Research and Education Center in Princeton, Kentucky. Training topics included a thorough discussion of phosphorus sources and soil reaction, soil test phosphorus, and phosphorus and water quality. In addition, the training provided an overview of the draft Kentucky NRCS Nutrient Management Technical Standard 590. A demonstration of software was presented to help agricultural professionals and advisors assist Kentucky producers meet the nutrient management planning requirements of the Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Act. This Part I (science) training was repeated at three strategic geographic locations across Kentucky: Elizabethtown, Mount Sterling, and Somerset, Kentucky in November 2000. 327 participants completed Part I training. To accommodate future participants, Part I material was incorporated into an on-line training and testing site and can be accessed at:

A Nutrient Management Planning Handbook was developed and distributed to workshop participants as a training tool and reference guide. This comprehensive, three-ring binder can continually be updated to incorporate new information and training materials. The goal is to have this reference material available in Kentucky's 120 county extension offices, the 121 conservation district offices, and on the counters in farm supply stores.

The Part II training sessions address nutrient management policies and planning guidelines. These sessions also reference the revised NRCS Nutrient Management Technical Standard 590. As of June 2004, the USDA Technical Standard 590 continues to serve as the standard for nutrient management planning for farmers in Kentucky. Part II training also incorporates information related to use of nutrient management planning software developed by agronomy specialists from the University of Kentucky. Eight, Part II training sessions have been conducted at Slade, Princeton, Bardstown, Hartford, Lexington, and Somerset, Kentucky. The number of participants completing Part II training to date is over 350. This training also included four nutrient management planning exercises.

The Part III training sessions included a field exercise which focused on learning and applying the Kentucky Phosphorus Index which assesses the risk to the environment in relation to excess phosphorus levels. Developing a comprehensive nutrient management plan based on examples from a poultry farm was also included in the exercise. The Part III training sessions were conducted at two University of Kentucky research farms located at Lexington and Princeton, Kentucky. Over 251 have participated in the Part III training to date. The cumulative number of individuals who have participated in the three training sessions is over 929 (includes some duplications). These numbers include participants at various levels from the following agencies and organizations:

Natural Resource Conservation Service (178)
Cooperative Extension Service (99)
Kentucky Certified Crop Advisors (64)
Kentucky Division of Conservation and Conservation Districts (33)
Kentucky Division of Water (3)
Kentucky State University (3)
Environmental Industry Representatives (3)
Kentucky Department of Agriculture (1)
Northern Kentucky University (1)
Crop Service and some Technical Service Providers (25)
Southern States Cooperative Managers and Sales Personnel (41)

These professionals represent a large part of the technical support base available to Kentucky producers and the training program continues.

Representatives of the Nutrient Management Focus Group hosted a one-day nutrient management farm tour during the statewide University of Kentucky Farm Field Day in 2002. Two hundred and fifty farmers and agency representatives participated. A nutrient management update session was held in December 2003 and 40 previously trained participants received the latest information and developments on nutrient management policy.

Additional agri-business representatives are now being trained by this focus group. In February 2004, 45 Southern States Cooperative store managers and sales personnel from throughout Kentucky were trained in Lexington, KY. An on-farm practical training exercise was conducted at the University of Kentucky’s Main Chance Research Farm. Continuing educational units for certified crop advisors were awarded to these participants. The participants who completed their nutrient management planning homework will also be awarded a certificate acknowledging their achievement of Certified Nutrient Manager status.


Potential Contributions

Economic Analysis

The goal of this SARE grant was to ultimately help agriculture producers meet the challenges they were facing for nutrient management planning. This included meeting nutrient management requirements of the Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Act (KRS224.71), Other EPA/ USDA emerging nutrient management regulations, and the federal EPA's CAFO rule.

The recent accelerated increase in nitrogen, phosphate and potassium chemical fertilizer prices have also encouraged the farmers to realize added economic benefits from the proper utilization of animal manures as a nutrient source for cropland.

Kentucky farmers are a national success story with over $11 million designated through the State Cost Share Program to help farmers construct BMPs for conservation purposes. More than $32.5 million have been spent or obligated during 2001 - 2004 toward conservation practices. As a result, producers are becoming more knowledgeable and enacting proper animal waste management systems resulting in Kentucky farms becoming more profitable and sustainable.

Through this SARE grant, nutrient management training materials were developed and farm advisors were trained in nutrient management techniques. As a result, hundreds of landowners were contacted and benefited through on-farm field days and educational events at statewide commodity meetings.

Farmers in Kentucky have embraced this concept of managing animal waste with unparalleled enthusiasm. Kentucky farmers are a national success story with over $11 million designated through the State Cost Share Program to help farmers construct BMPs for conservation purposes. More than $32.5 million have been spent or obligated during 2001 - 2004 toward conservation practices. Without this SARE grant serving as an umbrella, this degree of success could not have been achieved.

Future Recommendations

Areas Needing Additional Study

How to train and qualify Technical Service Providers (TSPs), as provided in the 2002 Farm Bill, to perfect their effectiveness regarding the complexities in developing comprehensive nutrient management plans.

Additional AFO/CAFO training and demonstration and field days are needed to teach successful and unique techniques in implementing comprehensive nutrient management plans.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.