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Best Management Practices


How Do They Work?

      The transporation of agricultural pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus to surface and groundwater can be reduced by Best Management Practices (BMPs). Best management practices reduce contamination through various ways:

-minimizing availability of pollutants

-slowing the transport and/or delivery of the pollutant, either by reducing water transported and thus the amount of the pollutant transported or through deposition of the pollutant

-intercepting the pollutant before or after it is delivered to the water resource through chemical or biological transformation


      Nutrient management is used to reduce nutrients transported to surface and groundwater. For nutrients that are transported while attached to soil particles (phosphorus and nitrogen); BMPs that reduce sediment loss will also reduce nutrient loss. Nutrients can be intercepted or transformed by using BMPs such as cover crops, riparian buffers, controlled drainage, or created in-stream wetlands. Nitrate may be removed in riparian buffers through both denitrification and uptake, whereas organic nitrogen and phosphorus, attached to sediment, may be slowed by sediment deposition.


The Use of Multiple BMP's

      The installation or use of one structural or management BMP is rarely sufficient to control the pollutant of concern completely. Combinations of BMPs that control the same pollutant are generally more effective than individual BMPs.

  • A BMP system is any combination of BMPs used together to comprehensively control a pollutant from the same source. These combinations, or systems, of BMPs can be specifically tailored for particular agricultural and environmental conditions, as well as for a particular pollutant.

      On average, only 40 to 60% of nitrogen fertilizer is used by crops. The remainder of the nitrogen becomes part of the soil organic matter, moves into the groundwater, denitrifies (becomes gaseous nitrogen), or runs off with surface water. Field borders can be used to slow runoff from the field, thus decreasing transport of nitrogen by increasing movement of the nitrogen and water into the soil and increasing the absorption of the nitrogen by the field border crop.

      Nitrogen that is not controlled by nutrient management and field borders can be intercepted and remediated by riparian buffers along the water resource. Nitrate-nitrogen associated with groundwater can be either denitrified by soil bacteria or absorbed by the riparian vegetation. Organic nitrogen, attached to soil particles flowing overland, can be trapped by the riparian vegetation. Used in conjunction as a system, these BMPs will reduce nitrogen loads into streams, rivers, lakes, and estuaries.

      Examples of some helpful BMP's and links to others are offered throughout the "BMP for Livestock" section of the website.

For More Information:
North Carolina Agricultural Research Service Technical Bulletin 318 -Reducing Agricultural Pollution
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