- Accounting of farm phosphorus inputs (in purchased animal feed and fertilizers) and phosphorus outputs (in milk, meat, or off-farm sales of harvested crops or other products) is needed as a means of determining potential phosphorus build-up in farm soils
- Integrated Farming System Model (IFSM) was developed to estimate these values and explore viable phosphorus-balancing strategies
Lake Champlain, located between Vermont, New York, and Quebec exhibits eutrophication mainly due to continuing phosphorus (P) losses from upstream nonpoint source areas. Several state and local agencies have initiated efforts aimed at assessing and identifying critical sources areas for P loss. To augment these efforts, accounting of farm P inputs (in purchased animal feed and fertilizers) and P outputs (in milk, meat, or off-farm sales of harvested crops or other products) is needed as a means of determining potential P build-up in farm soils. When farm P inputs exceed P outputs, P surplus occurs on the farm. This leads to potential soil-P accumulations and risk of P loss in runoff, negatively impacting the quality of receiving water bodies. In this study, a combination of farm record data and a model-based approach, using the Integrated Farming System Model (IFSM), was used to estimate farm P inputs and outputs, identify root causes of farm P imbalances, and explore viable P balancing strategies. Three Vermont dairy farms with varying farm systems (grass-based organic farm, fully confined farm, and a mixed system farm with high-producing confined dairy cows and grazing heifers) were studied. These farms were found to have P surpluses ranging from 5.5 kg/ha to 18.7 kg/ha on annual basis. This study also identified critical causes of P imbalances for each farm and suggested farm specific alternative strategies needed to address the P imbalances. By balancing farm P inputs and outputs, potential accumulation of soil-P can be prevented. As a result, maximum benefits can be obtained from land treatment measures implemented to control off-field P loss without the additional concern of continuing P build-up that could reduce their effectiveness.