Whole-Farm Nutrient and Agchemical Input Budgeting for Sustainable Farming: Analysis and Demonstration

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1991: $0.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1997
ACE Funds: $85,000.00
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Jeffrey Wyman
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: barley, corn, oats, soybeans, wheat


  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic


    [Note to online version: The report for this project includes tables and figures that could not be included here. The regional SARE office will mail a hard copy of the entire report at your request. Just contact North Central SARE at (402) 472-7081 or ncrsare@unl.edu.]

    The nutrient distribution and management patterns on three dairy farms in Wisconsin were intensively studied in 1992. Field-by-field, potassium and phosphorus levels vary widely from very low to very high across the farms. On all three farms, more phosphate is entering the farm as feed and fertilizer than is leaving in milk and animals sold. At least four times more potash was imported than was exported from the farms.

    When field by field nutrient management plans were prepared for the farms in 1993 and 1994, however, deficits on alfalfa called for the importation of additional phosphate and potash. The substantial amount of nutrients available from animal manures on the farms was suitable for fertilizing corn, but could not be applied to alfalfa fields at rates sufficient to meet its total phosphate and potash requirements without detrimental affects to the stand.

    On-farm nitrogen resources (manure applications, legume residues, and residual nitrate left in the soil profile) were able to supply almost all of the corn nitrogen needs on the farms. As manure supplied most of corn potash and phosphate needs, starter rates for corn were decreased.

    Even with substantial willingness on their part to make management changes and ready assistance on the part of the researchers, the farmers were not able to follow their nutrient management plans completely. Constraints to following the plans included labor shortages, financial deficits that inhibited fertilizer purchases, problems caused by the weather or unforeseen emergencies, as well as the time it takes to get used to new management strategies.

    Project objectives:

    Principal Objective: With participating farm families, demonstrate and evaluate a whole-farm systems approach to managing crop nutrients and pest problems on representative dairy farms.


    A. Collect baseline data on demonstration farms for inputs and outputs of major plant nutrients, pests and management.

    B. Utilizing the collected data, analyze whole-farm nutrient flow patterns and pest management strategies.

    C. With participating farmers, develop and implement a whole farm crop fertilization and agrichemical use strategy that balances crop production goals, economics, and resource protection.

    D. Conduct education programs for farmers and other agricultural and conservation professionals on systems approaches to crop nutrient budgeting and pest management for dairy farms.

    E. Evaluate the effectiveness of the project’s educational outreach effort in promoting adoption of demonstrated farming practices on other dairy farms in the region.

    F. An additional sub-objective (not included in the project proposal but funded from a University of Wisconsin grant) is to compare whole-farm nutrient flow patterns and pest management strategies at a rotational grazing operation with those at three farms using more “conventional” herd management techniques.

    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.