Conservation practices or BMPs can save you from 10¢/lb. in total nitrogen (N) used for contour farming to over $2/lb. for combining no-till with the use of buffers and vegetative filters, based on a recent publication, “Cost Effective Water Quality Projection.”

 The publication was co-authored by crop scientists from University of Nebraska, Kansas State University, University of Missouri, Iowa State University, USDA and the EPA. It recommends: no-till farming, contour farming, strip-tilling, terraces and vegetative outlets, drainage-water management, nutrient-removal wetlands, buffers and filters with conventionaltillage, buffers and filters with no-till and annual cover crops.

All will help reduce loss of sediment, N and phosphorus (P), says Matt Helmers, Iowa State University (ISU) assistant professor and Extension agricultural engineer and publication co-author.

The initial study shows that N cost savings vary for each BMP. A no-till operation alone will save about 38¢/lb. in total N reduced. However, reduced N rates still top the cost-savings ratio.

By reducing the N rate from 125 lbs./acre to 85 lbs., there would be a 17% cost reduction, the study shows. That compares to a 15% reduction by avoiding a fall N application, and 14% if a nitrification inhibitor is used with a fall N application.