Combining field phosphorus runoff risk assessments with whole-farm phosphorus balances to guide manure management decisions

J Environ Qual. 2020 Mar;49(2):496-508. doi: 10.1002/jeq2.20043. Epub 2020 Mar 6.


Phosphorus (P) loss from agricultural fields contributes to water quality degradation. A phosphorus index (PI) is a tool that scores fields based on P loss potential. Recently, a new transport × best or beneficial management practice (BMP) approach was proposed for the New York PI (NY-PI), which first scores fields using landscape-based transport factors (raw scores) and then offers various BMPs to reduce the score (i.e., risk of P transport). The final score is assigned a management implication (N needs based, P removal based, or zero P application), taking into account field-specific soil-test P (STP) and the farm's whole-farm P balance. With farmer and nutrient management planner input and data on field-specific transport factors and whole-farm P balances of 18 New York dairy farms, we set coefficients for transport factors, BMPs related to P application, and STP limits and determined the impact of implementation of the new NY-PI on manure management options. Based on raw scores, the proposed NY-PI initially limited manure application to 51% of the total cropland area of the participating farms (28% N-based, 23% P-based). Implementation of BMPs (i.e., changing the method and ground cover or timing of P application) allowed 43-98% of the land area to receive manure at N-based rates. For farms with whole-farm P balances within the feasible limits set for New York, an additional 0-50% of the land base was classified as N-based management, depending on BMP selection. These results show the ability of the new NY-PI to limit P applications on fields with high transport risk while incentivizing adoption of BMPs and improvements in whole-farm P management.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Farms
  • Manure*
  • New York
  • Phosphorus / analysis*
  • Risk Assessment


  • Manure
  • Phosphorus