Whole Farm Nutrient Management is an upper-level undergraduate course designed for students interested in agricultural careers. Offered through the Departments of Animal Science and Crop and Soil Sciences, the course aims to help these students develop a working knowledge of agricultural environmental management.
During the last decade, agricultural operations have been increasingly linked to reduced water and air quality and are being scrutinized by the public through increased monitoring, litigation, and regulation. In 1999 the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency released a strategy to require that concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) follow comprehensive nutrient management plans (CNMP); the strategy was refined into regulation with the release of the CAFO Final Rule in 2002. A CNMP must meet guidelines designed to reduce soil and nutrient losses to water resources and to increase on-farm nutrient recycling. Thus, managing environmental impacts of farming and operating according to regulations have become required responsibilities of those working in agricultural production.
To address the CNMP requirement, the faculty of the Departments of Animal Science and Crop and Soil Sciences partnered and revised AS 412 into a cross-listed course (AS/CSS 412) entitled Whole Farm Nutrient Management. The revised course has two modules. Module I is designed to address agricultural environmental policy, the basics of soil and crop nutrient management, and the development of a nutrient management plan for an actual dairy farm. Although not required for a CNMP at present, the second module was designed to teach students how to manage nutrients more efficiently in feeding the dairy herd to reduce excess nutrients on the farm.
The Whole Farm Nutrient Management course at Cornell University provides a key experience for future leaders in agriculture, because environmental management in agriculture will continue to play an increasingly important role in farm sustainability. Many of the basic concepts of agricultural nutrient cycling that are applied in AS/CSS 412 can be found in other courses, but no other course at Cornell challenges students to integrate and apply the fundamentals to solve farm problems according to contemporary environmental policies and nutrient management strategies. These past two years, students that took the course responded very positively to the approach. They gave lecture ratings ranging from 8.2 to 8.9, with a mean of 8.6 (out of 10) and laboratory ratings of 8.5 to 8.9, with a mean of 8.6. This rating was important because the laboratory sessions are designed to provide opportunity for students to put their knowledge from past experiences and AS/CSS 412 lecture to work through short problem solving exercises, discussions, and a case study project. Students surveyed 1-2 years after graduation responded that they felt that the course had been useful in their careers, and that they would recommend it to undergraduates with career interests in production agriculture.
- Academic Programs Instructional Support (e.g., Institutional Challenge, Multicultural Scholars, Nat'l Needs, Hispanic Ed)
- Other USDA (e.g., Water Quality, Special Grants, NRI)
- Mike McMahon (dairy producer), Mark Ochs (consultant for the McMahon farm).
- Greg Albrecht, Extension Associate, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Nutrient Management Spear Program
- Karl Czymmek, senior extension associate, Pro-Dairy, Bradfield Hall
- Mike van Amburgh Associate Professor, Department of Animal Science