Nutrient Management Education: Perceptions and Influences
Soil testing, analysis, and implementation of associated recommendations are indicated as a key to development of nutrient management plans for Wisconsin farmers. Indeed a soil test is the only practical way to know the nutrient requirements of a soil to grow a desired crop. In Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin Soils and Plant Analysis Lab, University of Wisconsin-Extension, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have a technical, regulatory, or educational role in ensuring farmers understand and appropriately utilize nutrient management plans for sustainable agricultural systems. In the mid 1980?s USDA and the State of Wisconsin began to tie nutrient management to agricultural program benefits and jurisdictional water quality regulations. In turn, UW-Extension Agriculture Educators began teaching, designing research, and evaluating nutrient management to measure outcomes in relation to environmental impact in addition to agronomic impact. The purpose of this research was to examine nutrient management educational efforts by UW-Extension educators in Wisconsin. An electronic survey was used to explore how UW-Extension educators regard the practice of soil testing, analysis, and recommendations in their nutrient management educational programs and their perceptions of how the farmers interpret the need and value of nutrient management education. Results of the survey indicate perceptions of educators are sometimes consistent with how valuable they consider the components of a nutrient management. It is suspected by the educators that though farmers believe following nutrient management recommendations is of agronomic value, they also believe farmers would not apply these principles if regulations and incentives were not in place. A common view appears to exist among UW-Extension Agriculture educators that the education and outreach provided is useful and that farmers place value on nutrient management plans mostly for agronomic purposes vs. water quality. Though the survey was inconclusive in relating demographics and land characteristics to value and implementation of nutrient management, the results can inform how UW- Extension educators and specialists enhance educational programing for nutrient management education of Wisconsin Farmers.