In this Let’s Talk About Ag BMPs, the University of Florida Active Learning Program interns Katherine Monagas and John Mashburn interviewed Dr. Tara Wade, Agricultural Resource Economist in the Food and Resource Economics Department, and researched the benefits of the implementation of Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) within Citrus groves in Florida. We will be discussing the application of agricultural BMPs and through the implementation of cover crops and reflective mulch, two economically viable and effective strategies to reduce water and nutrient usage.
What is a BMP?
A BMP (Best Management Practice), is an adaptive and site-specific agricultural practice that is economically feasible. The purpose of a BMP is to apply soil and water conservation practices in a way that is affordable and helpful for the farm.
They can be used by farmers when they are accounting for the long-term sustainability of their land along with the environmental and public health impacts of the farming practices. BMPs include nutrient management practices that help manage nutrient application and minimize the impacts of nutrients on water sources. Irrigation management practices are methods used to decrease water usage or over-watering, along with nutrient loss into the environment. BMPs generally aim to reduce the use of nutrients while preserving our water sources for both current and future generations to enjoy in an economically beneficial way.
What are some examples of BMPs?
There are many different types of BMPs which farmers can use such as high precision equipment, but two common BMPs in the citrus industry are cover crops and reflective mulch.
Cover crops are any kind of crop that are grown to help with the growth of cash crops. They are often grain or legume crops planted in between harvesting and planting season. Cover crops are good for preserving the moisture of the soil, prevent soil compaction, and combat erosion.
Another example of BMPs is reflective mulch. Reflective mulch is a sheet of reflective material such as aluminum or silver polyethylene that reflects light up to the bottom of the plant. The purpose of this BMP is it gives the plant more light, helps with pest control, and helps prevent the drying of the soil by preventing direct sunlight.
Are BMPs affordable?
It depends. For example, high precision agriculture is very expensive and is not viable for most smaller farms, but treating manure for phosphorus might be more affordable than alternatives like fertilizer. Every single farm is different, so it is hard to give a one-size-fits-all answer. Some farmers have reported that they don’t use BMPs for reasons of non-applicability to their farm or because of price, but for many it is useful. Multiple agencies in Florida recognize this and offer financial assistance to reduce the cost to the farmers for implementation through cost-share programs. Farmers are encouraged to work with agency staff to determine which practices are feasible on their operation. Read this blog to more about cost-share programs: Technical and Financial Assistance Available for Producers to Implement Agriculture Best Management Practices (BMPs) in Central Florida.
Where can I read more about BMPs?
You can find more citrus related information in the Florida Citrus Production Guide.
Hopefully, this article has given you a good start into learning about BMPs and their benefits for many farmers. Aside from the resources mentioned above, we have also made a video with an interview with Dr. Tara Wade where we talk about BMPs in more detail.
This blog was written by the University of Florida Active Learning Program Interns Katherine Monagas and John Mashburn and edited by Dr. Yilin Zhuang. We would greatly appreciate if you would take a few minutes to complete the evaluation survey and tell us what you have learned and how we could improve the series. Link to the survey: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/18IGzrDH8BNaqS7G_pEmKVKC-0pHysxRDiF67xs-CszE/