With the operating costs of farming on the rise, finding ways to save money is crucial. One of the best methods to manage increasing costs is to be more efficient with nutrients. Good nutrient efficiency means lower fertilizer expenses and higher yields. Cornell has developed a program to calculate a farm’s N, P, and K efficiency over a given year. Known as the Cornell Nutrient Mass Balance (CNMB), the program takes into account all of the inputs and outputs involving nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium and calculates the farm’s overall efficiency for each. It can picture the farm as a whole as well as broken down on a per acre or per pound of milk basis. It provides graphs to compare farms and determine if a farm is efficient with nutrient use. The mass balance inputs include manure spread on farm, fertilizer and feeds purchased, animals born and purchased, and bedding purchased. Outputs for the balance include crops produced, manure exported, and animals and milk sold. The mass balance is an excellent tool for determining farm nutrient efficiency and is a starting point for determining areas and methods for potential improvement.
In addition to potential cost savings, the CNMB will also determine the farm’s flexibility in nutrient applications when utilizing adaptive nitrogen management systems and the updated New York Phosphorus Runoff Index (NY-PI 2.0). Three years of CNMBs with an average phosphorus balance of 12 lbs. or less will be necessary to qualify a farm for the more liberal NY-PI 2.0 regulations. CAFOs will be required to utilize NY-PI 2.0 on the next permit, which is expected in July 2022, and farms applying for funded projects utilizing the NRCS 590 Nutrient Management Standard must implement it now. Beginning the process of calculating your farm’s nutrient balance now will better prepare you for the point when implementation is mandatory. Remember, three years of CNMBs will be required to qualify for the less stringent regulations. If you are interested in having the mass nutrient balance applied to your farm, contact your consultant or email me at email@example.com.