434 Environmental Risk Assessment—A Nutrient Management Planning Strategy For Nursery and Greenhouse Systems

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  • 1 Dept. of Natural Resource Sciences and Landscape Architecture, Univ. of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742

In 1998, the state of Maryland adopted some of the toughest nutrient management planning regulations in the Nation, requiring virtually all agricultural operations plan and implement nitrogen and phosphorus-based management plans by Dec. 2002. The nursery and greenhouse industry is faced with a far more complicated nutrient management planning process than traditional agronomic planning scenarios. Factors include a large number (>500) of plant species, various fertilization and irrigation strategies, with crop cycles ranging from 6 weeks (bedding plants) to upwards of 15 years for some tree species in field production, often with a lack of knowledge of specific nutrient uptake rates and utilization. In addition, unique infrastructural and site characteristics that contribute to water and nutrient runoff from each nursery contribute to a multitude of variables that should be considered in the planning process. The challenge was to identify a simple, effective process for nutrient management planning that would a) provide an accurate assessment of nutrient loss potential from this wide variety of production scenarios, b) identify those specific factors that contribute most to nutrient leaching and runoff, and c) provide a mechanism to economically assess the various risk management (mitigation) scenarios. This risk assessment process provides information on a number of fixed (site) and dynamic (management) variables for soils/substrates, irrigation and fertilization practices, together with any surface water management systems (e.g. containment ponds, riparian buffers). When all the risk factors for a nursery are evaluated and scored, the complete picture of risk assessment then emerges. By identifying higher risk factors and evaluating different risk management options, the grower and/or nutrient management planner can then choose economic alternatives to reduce the potential for nutrient runoff.

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