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Florida farmers and ranchers are also environmentalists. They implement practices to preserve our natural resources. Picture credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County.

Best Management Practices for Agriculture Operators: Showing that we Care

 All farmers have a significant role in protecting our natural resources. Science based approaches are being taken around the State of Florida to ensure that there is adequate use of water and the impact of our agricultural practices is minimal, thus ensuring a cleaner environment for future generations.

Due to the size and location of farmland, operators are usually involved in natural resources conservation efforts, but the average Floridian would not know, unless they had a close relationship with a farmer.

 

So, how can I Help?

The first step is to implement sound science-based production practices. These are called best management practices (BMPs), which are tested methods designed to prevent or reduce harm to the environment. The recommended BMPs are cost-effective ways to minimize pollutants entering water bodies while also improving your land.

Florida farmers and ranchers are also environmentalists. They implement practices to preserve our natural resources. Picture credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County.

Florida farmers and ranchers are also environmentalists. They implement practices to preserve our natural resources. Picture credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County.

These practices can have many benefits such as:

  • Improving crop/animal health
  • Improving pasture health
  • Protecting your land from soil erosion
  • Reducing irrigation frequency, fertilizer needs and herbicide costs

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services coordinates the Agricultural Best Management Practices Program. This program helps producers demonstrate their commitment to preserving the environment by protecting their water resources.

Here are some common BMPs that many farmers and ranchers follow as part of their everyday science-based decision-making process:

Routine soil sampling is an important, yet cheap best management practice that can safe producers money by giving them a decision tool on where and if they need to fertilize their crops. Picture credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County.

Routine soil sampling is an important, yet cheap best management practice that can safe producers money by giving them a decision tool on where and if they need to fertilize their crops. Picture credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County.

 

Irrigation BMPs

  • Wells used for irrigation should be constructed by a licensed driller
  • Schedule irrigations according to soil moisture and crop water needs
  • Adjust irrigation amounts to meet varying crop demands at different growth stages
  • Apply irrigation uniformly and accurately; do not overspray onto impermeable surfaces

 

Fertilizer BMPs

  • Test soil to determine exact fertilizer needs
  • Properly calibrate fertilizer application spreaders
  • Apply fertilizer directly over root zone; for row crops, place fertilizer on top of beds; for pasture or field crops, fertilize the entire planted area
  • Avoid applying fertilizer near roadways or water bodies
  • Minimize overlapping fertilizer during application

 

Pasture BMPs

  • Do not overstock your land with more animals than it can handle — follow the recommendations and guidelines of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
  • Use high-intensity, short-duration grazing to rejuvenate poor pasture
  • Allow grass to reach 6 inches before grazing; remove animals when 3 inches remain
  • Mow regularly to encourage grass and discourage weeds
  • If available, fertilize pastures according to site-specific soil test recommendations or the guidelines of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

Rotational grazing can help in the distribution of nutrients, conservation of forage stand, among many other benefits. Picture Credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension

Fencing BMPs

  • Fence off or limit animal access to natural water bodies
  • If needed, pipe water from streams or lakes to a trough located away from the water body
  • Fence off animal access to areas that receive periodic standing water
  • Use fences to divide pastures into temporary plots for rotational grazing

Enrolling in the BMP program

Your local BMP coordinator can provide you with a free FDACS BMP manual and other related information. They will guide you through the process and design a plan appropriate to your agricultural operation. For more information on this program, please visit the following link: https://goo.gl/R1G8Ad.

A periodical verification of your management decisions as well as the overall farm operation is critical in a responsible watershed stewardship approach. Remember, two sets of eyes are usually better than one. For more information on this or any other agriculture topics call UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County 863-773-2164.

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