Southern Regional Water Program

Research, Extension & Education Water Quality Programs through the Land Grant University System

Nutrient and Pesticide Management in Kentucky

kynpm1.gifNutrients and pesticides are used in Kentucky to improve production and quality of agricultural crops such as corn, soybean and tobacco, which occupy about 2.5 million acres annually. They are used to a lesser extent on hay and pasture that are produced on about seven million acres. Very little nutrients and pesticides are used on forest land that makes up almost half of the 26 million total land acres in the state. Although turf and home lawns and gardens make up a small percentage of the states’ land acreage, they are intense users of nutrients and pesticides.

Animal manures and other organic sources of nutrients traditionally have been minor in Kentucky. The beef herd of about one million brood cows is the largest of any state kynpm2.gifeast of the Mississippi River, but there is very little confinement feeding. The dairy industry is small with only about 125,000 milk cows in the state in 2002. The most significant source of animal manure nutrients is from the broiler industry that produces about 190,000,000 birds annually. Horse muck from a total of about 155,000 head is a significant source of nutrients in some areas of the state - especially in the central bluegrass area.

kynpm3.gifThe central Bluegrass area of Kentucky is unique in that the soils are naturally high in phosphorus. It has been theorized that this is one of the reasons the area has become famous for race horses. However, it also places it in a disadvantage in relation to utilization of animal manures. Disposal of horse muck is already a major problem for some horse farms. Implementation of stricter water quality regulations is compounding their problems. Research trials and demonstration projects are helping farms identify better techniques for managing and utilizing this resource.

Pesticide use on cropland is more concentrated in the larger crop growing areas of Western Kentucky. In these areas, there has been growing concern with pesticides - especially atrazine - entering surface and ground water. Proper handling, storage, and use of pesticides is critical in reducing the risk of contamination of our natural environment.

Conditions in Kentucky

Information on nutrient and pesticide impaired water bodies (streams, rivers, lakes) in Kentucky is available through the Division of Water. Impaired water bodies and watersheds are outlined on both state and county levels. Information on water quality can be also accessed through Kentucky TMDL Program webpage.

Resources and Programs

The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture provides research, education and extension resources to assist state and federal agencies, business and industry, communities and individual citizens in addressing water quality concerns. These programs are designed to provide information for targeted audiences such as farmers, homeowners and youth.

Extension Outreach

The U.K. College of Agriculture has developed programs designed to provide assistance in the proper use of nutrients and pesticides. Following are links to some of these programs:

A working group established by Environmental and Natural Resource Issues Task Force is coordinating a state program to certify nutrient management planners in Kentucky. kynpm4.gifThis program has provided training for state and federal agency employees and independent crop consultants to qualify them to assist farmers in developing comprehensive nutrient management plans. Information about this program can be accessed through the Nutrient Management Planning in Kentucky web page.

The Ky-A-Syst and Ky-A-Syst for the Home programs offer tools for farmers and homeowners to use in assessing both nutrient and pesticide management.

The Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Act requires farmers with 10 or more acres in agriculture or silviculture production to develop and implement a water quality plan. Farmers choose from a menu of state-approved best management practices, including practices related to nutrient and pesticide management.

Pesticide management programs available through the UK College of Agriculture provide information and recommendations for the environmentally safe and effective use of kynpm5.gifpesticides on farms, and in and around homes in the state. Kentucky is one of the first states to utilize integrated pest management (IPM) methods through the Cooperative Extension Service. The Kentucky IPM Program webpage provides a wealth of information.

Pesticide Applicator Certification is a legal requirement for persons applying restricted-use pesticides in any situation and for those individuals who apply general-use products in a commercial situation. The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service conducts training courses for the certification of private and commercial pesticide applicators across the state.

Additional publications on nutrient and pest management are available through the UK College of Agriculture webpage.

Scientific Research

Scientific research is the basis for development of new technologies to eliminate adverse impacts of nutrients and crop protection chemicals. Researchers at Land Grant Universities work to develop these new technologies and evaluate their economic wqre.gifbenefits. The University of Kentucky Water Quality Research and Education website has information about research that assesses water quality conditions across the state and which investigates the influence of agricultural practices on water quality in Kentucky. Some examples of major research efforts in Kentucky include:

Nitrogen Behavior in Fertilizer and Poultry Litter-Amended Soils and Potential Impacts on Water Quality aims to evaluate the interaction of fertilizer and poultry litter nitrogen with soil organic matter fractions and bulk soil taken from long-term field plots. The project will also examine nitrogen immobilization mechanisms and link results to the cycling of nitrogen as affected by management strategy.

ditch.gifThe goal of a project entitled, “Cattle Production Practices in Grazed Watersheds of the Humid Region” is to determine and evaluate management practices that will enhance cattle production for small to mid-sized farm operators while addressing water quality, nutrient management, environmental/regulatory requirements, and operator training needs.

Concentration of Herbicides and Nutrients in Drainage Tile Effluent from a Field Receiving Fall-Applied Herbicides and Spring-Applied Fertilizers and Chicken Litter monitors the movement of herbicides, nitrates, nitrites, and phosphate from a field. The objectives are to determine the amount of atrazine and simazine, applied in the fall, in drainage tile effluent and to determine the amount of nitrate, nitrite, and phosphate that will move from a field in drainage tile effluent following treatment with poultry manure and fertilizers.

Biological Availability of Suspended Phosphorus in Agricultural Watersheds studies the form and availability of phosphorus in agricultural waters. The bioavailability of organic and inorganic phosphorus in the colloidal phosphorus fraction and the usefulness of current methods to detect these are also investigated.

College and University Education

Education is critical to develop new talent and human resources to address the water quality issues of the future. Educational curricula in nutrient and pesticide management are available within several departments at the University of Kentucky. Graduate and undergraduate programs in key departments include:

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