Much of the following information was extracted from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service website www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/ECS/nutrient/documents.html under Conservation Practice 590, Nutrient Management.
Step 1 - Define areas to be managed and obtain soil tests for those areas. Specify how often soils in managed areas should be tested. Locate facilities and fields on maps contained in a soil survey report. This gives a special perspective to all subsequent activities. Identify environmentally sensitive areas on the maps so that fields can be located where nutrient management is most critical.
Step 2 - Specify crop rotation and determine expected yields for each crop to be grown in each area. Yield goals can be based on historical yields, soil productivity indices, and/or management level. Yield goals are used to establish crop nutrient needs and should be realistic.
Step 3 - Obtain results from soil, plant, water and manure analyses which are used in subsequent calculations. Soil analysis is used to establish baseline soil test values. Plant analysis is used to determine plant removal of nutrients. Water analysis can be used to determine if ground or surface waters are too nutrient rich (e.g., nitrate in groundwater, N and P in surface water). Manure analysis is used to determine manure application rates.
Step 4 - Quantify nutrients from all sources available to the farm. This information is used to estimate nutrient additions for a given field.
Step 5 - Develop a nutrient budget for each field. Construct a nutrient balance for each crop yield goal on each area to be managed. Estimates of nutrient additions from all sources (commercial fertilizer, organic wastes, legumes, green manures, crop residues, atmosphere, etc.) and nutrient losses (runoff, erosion, leaching, volatilization, harvest, etc.) are made, then nutrient additions are adjusted to meet crop needs and protect water supplies.
Step 6 - Make recommendation of nutrient rate, timing, form, and method of application which minimizes the potential for adverse environmental effects. As part of this process identify periods of excess water where runoff, erosion and leaching occur. Avoid nutrient applications during times when losses are probable. Use tools available from Land Grant universities in this process.
Step 7 - Review and modify the plan as needed to make sure it is in concert with state and local regulations.