Nearly 1 million acres of cropland are planted using conservation tillage -- where farmers leave the stalks and leaves of harvested crops on the field to create a natural mulch -- a practice Maryland farmers helped pioneer.








Maryland was the first state to use private sector consultants to expand technical assistance to farmers and accelerate the development of nutrient management plans. Farmers often work with consultants to determine the best balance of fertilizers with crop needs while protecting water quality.

In the field

With more than 2 million acres of farmland statewide, Maryland farmers play an important role in protecting our soil and water resources, especially the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland farmers have taken a leadership role in the Bay cleanup by working to control excess nutrients from farm animals, fertilizers and other farming activities.

In addition, farmers have been proactive on Maryland's Tributary Teams in developing and implementing watershed-based action plans aimed at reducing nutrient pollution and improving water quality in 10 key watershed basins.


Farmers taking action

  • Install best management practices (BMPs) -- such as field borders, livestock stream crossings, animal waste storage structures and poultry composters -- to prevent soil erosion, control nutrient movement and protect water quality.
  • Seek assistance from Soil Conservation Districts to install BMPs.
  • Have a nutrient management plan developed by a certified nutrient management advisor. Such a plan can help save money, provide the nutrients required for crop growth and protect water quality. For more information, call the local Soil Conservation District or Maryland Cooperative Extension office. Numbers are listed in the blue government pages of the phone book.


Managing agricultural nutrients

Maryland's Nutrient Management Program helps farmers with proper management, handling and application of nutrients. Management of crop nutrients contained in fertilizers and manure protects our waterways.

Nutrient management services are provided by certified nutrient management consultants, who work directly with farmers to balance fertilizer use with crop nutrient needs. Using soil tests, manure analyses and the latest technology to make crop recommendations, consultants provide farmers with site-specific recommendations tailored to their operations.

The nation's first certification initiative for private consultants and fertilizer company technicians was launched in Maryland. Qualified individuals are certified as nutrient management providers and given continuing education courses by the Maryland Department of Agriculture in conjunction with Maryland Cooperative Extension. The program is a major tool in Maryland's efforts to meet nutrient reduction commitments of the Bay agreement. We're well on the way. In 1999, farmers are expected to exceed the original goal of implementing 1.2 million acres of cropland by the year 2000 under Maryland's Nutrient Management voluntary program.


Water Quality Improvement Act

During the closing hours of the 1998 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Water Quality Improvement Act. The act, which some have described as the most comprehensive agricultural nutrient control legislation in the country, requires nutrient management plans for virtually all Maryland farms over the next several years. It also represents a major philosophical change in the way voluntary agricultural water quality programs have been delivered since Maryland's Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort began.

Historically, nitrogen has been accepted as the nutrient of greatest concern to water quality. The new legislation changes this aspect of the Nutrient Management Program with a requirement that all farmers implement a nutrient management plan based on both nitrogen and phosphorus, beginning in 2005.


Soil Conservation Districts: a statewide system for local programs

Long before the term "environmentalist" was coined, field specialists from Maryland's Soil Conservation Districts were working with landowners to keep our farmland productive and our waterways clean and healthy. Established more than 50 years ago, Maryland's Soil Conservation Districts date back to the Dust Bowl years, when Congress created for the first time a national program to control and prevent soil erosion in local communities across the nation. Today, there are more than 3,000 Soil Conservation Districts throughout the United States working to provide local solutions to natural resource issues.

The real work being done by Maryland's Soil Conservation Districts is taking place in the field -- on the dairy farm that borders a local tributary, at the construction site for a new suburban shopping center or the farm field adjacent to a local drainage ditch. The Soil Conservation Districts ensure that local issues -- such as poor water quality in a neighborhood stream, loss of wildlife habitat or flooding concerns -- are addressed.

In recent years, Soil Conservation Districts have taken on many additional responsibilities and will continue to preserve Maryland's rural legacy by developing and promoting farming practices that are both environmentally and economically sound. A strong agricultural industry and a healthy environment go hand in hand.


In search of greener pastures: a horse owner's guide to protecting the Chesapeake Bay

Maryland's horse country seems a far cry from the sandy shorelines associated with the Chesapeake Bay. But Maryland's horse country is also Bay country, with every rolling hill and grassy meadow linked to the Chesapeake by a 17,000-mile network of streams and rivers.

The bad news is that soil from eroding pastures and rainwater runoff from unmanaged animal waste carry nutrients and sediment to the Bay and its tributaries. Scientists have identified this "over-nutrification" as a major cause of the Bay's decline.

There is, however, good news. If you own horses in Maryland, you can help clean up the Bay and its tributaries. By adopting a few simple best management practices, specifically designed for landowners with horses, you can join the thousands of citizens, businesses and communities working together for a cleaner, healthier Bay.

Keep your pasture green

  • Select pasture sites carefully.
  • Inspect established pastures for problems.
  • Test soil.
  • Reseed bare ground, rills and gullies.
  • Clip pastures to the proper height.
  • Switch to rotational grazing.

Manage waste

  • Store manure properly.
  • Compost manure.
  • Establish vegetative cover.
  • Keep animals out of streams.

Store and use chemicals safely

  • Buy only what you need, and use what you buy.
  • Store pesticides in a locked, dry, well-ventilated area.
  • Read and follow label instructions exactly as printed.
  • Whenever possible, select less toxic chemicals.

For more information or free assistance in planning or implementing these best management practices, check the blue government pages of your phone book for the number of your local Soil Conservation District or Maryland Cooperative Extension office.

Quick Facts
Programs for the future

The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program preserves productive agricultural land, helping to curb random expansion of urban development, provide open space and protect the quality of life that makes Maryland unique. This program is the most successful program of its kind in the nation and has perpetually preserved more farmland than any other state.

Maryland's Rural Legacy Program protects rural landscapes and valuable agricultural land for future generations. The program plans to protect 200,000 acres by 2011.

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