BLOOMINGTON, Ill.-Now’s the time to be thinking about best management practices to protect against nutrient loss during the post-harvest time period.

“Regarding cover crop selection and seeding, there’s a small window of time that remains open for farmers in some areas of state, especially those farther north,” said Mike Plumer, Illinois Council on Best Management Practices (CBMP) coordinator. “It’s not too late yet to consider cover crops as part of your nutrient management plan.”

As water quality and nutrient management issues have taken center stage in non-agricultural circles of influence, CBMP joins other farm groups in encouraging farmers to consider, choose, and implement best management practices that make sense on each individual farm.

“We know that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrient management,” said Plumer. “But we also know that there’s probably at least one best management practice that most farmers can implement that will make a positive change at the farm level and beyond.”

As is always the case, best management practices regarding fall applied nitrogen fertilizer are extremely important for both environmental and economic reasons. CBMP encourages farmers to follow the Illinois Agronomy Handbook guidelines for application. Do not apply nitrogen before soil temperatures are 50 degrees or lower and continually falling at the 4 inch depth CBMP also recommends that fall applied anhydrous ammonia be stabilized with a nitrification inhibitor.

The Illinois State Water Survey provides a daily map update of soil temperatures at Since soil temperatures can be influenced by a number of factors (such as residue cover, soil color, and drainage), it is always best to monitor temperatures in individual fields prior to nitrogen application.

“Best management practices make sense for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are economic incentives. In years like this where we have terrific yields, grain prices will predictably be lower. Preserving the value of nutrients where the crop needs them is smart business. It’s also the right move for long term environmental reasons,” Plumer added.

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About the Author: Mike Plumer