Indiana Fertilizer Application Rule Protects Farmers, Water Quality

A new set of fertilizer application regulations from the Office of the Indiana State Chemist helps ensure proper nutrient management and protects farmers and the environment, a Purdue Extension beef specialist says.

The rule, which goes into effect Feb. 16, includes staging and application restrictions for both inorganic, or commercial, fertilizers and manure. It applies to anyone who uses fertilizer for the purpose of producing an agricultural crop, with the exception of those who apply less than 10 cubic yards in a year.

While large permitted livestock operations that perform liquid nutrient applications already fall under the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Confined Feeding Operation laws, the new Office of the Indiana State Chemist (OISC) rule extends to smaller producers who would mostly apply solid manure, Ron Lemenager said.

“This is really a common-sense approach to nutrient management and preserving the environment,” he said. “Most of our livestock producers already are doing these things, so the rule shouldn’t be a significant burden.”

The new rule requires both inorganic fertilizers and manure to be staged at least 300 feet away from surface water, water wells and drainage inlets. Neither can be staged in a waterway, floodway or standing water. Manure must also be staged at least 100 feet from property lines and public roads, and 400 feet from residential buildings.

Inorganic fertilizers cannot be applied directly to water, from a public road or to saturated ground.

Manure application comes with setback restrictions that depend on manure type and application method. For example, solid manure applied via single-pass incorporation would have to be applied 500 feet from public water supplies, 25 feet from surface waters, 25 feet from sinkholes, 50 feet from water wells and 5 feet from drainage inlets.

Another important component of the rule, according to Lemenager, is record-keeping.

“It’s in the best interest of the farmers to keep records in case some sort of dispute arises – whether it’s legal or neighbor relations,” he said. “Records also offer some protection if you apply or stage manure, then an act of God causes something to leach into the water.”

Record keeping can be as simple as recording whether setbacks were followed, where and how much manure was applied, the number of acres covered and whether a soil test was completed recently to adjust any commercial fertilizer applications.

Lemenager and his colleagues created a quick reference and record-keeping sheet, which is available for free download.

The full details of the new fertilizer rule along with a setback table and a list of frequently asked questions is available through the OISC here.

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