A Horticultural Sciences Department Extension Publication on Vegetable and Fruit Crops
Eat your Veggies and Fruits!!!!!
Issue No. 556 April 2010
Best Management Practices in the Suwannee Basin
By: Mace Bauer, BMP Implementation Team
Indian River Research and Education Center, Ft. Pierce, Florida
The Best Management Practices (BMP) Program is a voluntary program designed to protect
ground and surface water from pollution caused by erosion or leaching of plant nutrients and
pesticides. The Florida Watershed Restoration Act of 1999 is the state legislature's mandate to
clean up Florida's waterways. The Suwannee River Basin is currently being monitored for
pollutants and decisions of future regulations will be driven by the progress in protecting water
quality. If a high percentage of the agricultural industries (vegetables, field crops, forestry, etc.)
adopt BMPs and they are successful in protecting the water quality, the need for more restrictive
and mandatory regulations should be diminished.
There are a few key BMPs which focus on nutrient and irrigation management for producers in
the Suwannee Basin. These BMPs have been identified as most important to keeping nutrients
from leaching into the groundwater. The BMPs these farms use emphasize managing nutrients
and irrigation together, and includes the following practices:
Nutrient budget and scheduling Adjustment of fertilizer program to address specific
crop needs. Adjust fertilizer rates for specific crop growth stages.
Equipment calibration Ensures proper functioning of equipment.
Split fertilizer applications Multiple applications timed with periods of peak plant
growth allow plants to take up nutrients more efficiently.
Fertigation Application of fertilizer through irrigation water allows for direct nutrient
application to the crop root zone. This fertilizer is typically applied daily, or several times
per week in small quantities.
Plastic mulch and drip irrigation In cropping systems where plastic mulch and drip
irrigation are feasible, adoption has led to reduced fertilizer and water use with increased
yield and quality.
Precision application Use specialized equipment for precise placement of nutrients on
targeted areas. This often reduces total amount of nutrients used.
Soil and tissue testing Used to base fertilizer applications on plant needs and available
nutrients in the soil.
Irrigation scheduling Planning when to irrigate based on soil moisture content, crop
water use rates, rainfall, and time of day. This practice reduces water use and nutrient
Monitoring soil moisture Use of devices that measure the amount of water in the soil, or
using methods such as estimating water content by hand.
Recordkeeping Proper recordkeeping provides accountability in the implementation of
Farmers in the Suwannee Basin have been leaders in the implementation of BMPs. Other
specific BMPs may be more applicable in different watersheds throughout the state; however,
our educational efforts in the Suwannee Basin have focused on these BMPs for their role in
improved nitrogen management, and prevention of nutrient leaching into groundwater.