Web-based Mapping of Farm Nutrients

The UT Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science Department is creating a web-based tool to aid in creating the maps needed to meet government regulations on nutrient management planning. The project is headed by Alan Jolly, an Extension Assistant, under the direction of Forbes Walker and Joanne Logan. Funding is from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Nutrient management refers to spreading manure and fertilizer nutrients on farmland in the most cost-effective and environmentally sound way. The spreading of manure is now subject to federal and state regulations that prevent its application close to water sources such as lakes, streams, or wells. For example, manure cannot be spread within 100 feet of a stream or river.

In order to plan, or map out, where manure can and cannot be spread, nutrient management plans must be drawn up. Previously, the only way to create the necessary maps for nutrient management plans was through Geographical Information Systems software. This software is both expensive and difficult to use. Farmers would generally have to go to a farm service and have the staff at the office create the maps.

The current project seeks to create a web-based tool that makes the functionality of GIS software mapping available on a website. Ultimately, this tool should enable farmers to create their own nutrient management plans, and allow for the input of new data, including the location of fields, streams, or steep slopes.

In addition, the web maps will be able to compute actual field areas where fertilizer can be spread, and will reference the coordinates of the land to the Tennessee state planning system. Information provided to farmers will also include soil data -- showing what soil series is on a particular farmerís property, and giving suggestions for how to best utilize that soil.

Staff at the University of Missouri are collaborating on a standalone, desktop version of the program, targeted mainly to government agencies. For the majority of farmers, however, Jollyís approach should allow a whole new level of access.
Mary Mack
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