Tractor Tending to Grassland

A tractor tends to grass on a Franklin County farm.

MONTPELIER – The Vermont Agency of Agriculture is reminding farmers to avoid spreading over saturated and snow- or ice-covered fields, and fields prone to possible runoff as the winter manure spreading ban lifted Wednesday.

State-enforce required agricultural practices – or RAPs – require farmers to avoid areas where runoff is likely and saturated farm fields when spreading fertilizer, measures intended to limit possible runoff pollution into nearby waterways.

Those rules also require farmers to keep accurate records of what nutrients they apply to their fields and what conditions were like the day of spreading.

In a Tuesday notice, the agency also asked farmers to wait for “optimal conditions” before spreading if there was still capacity in their manure pits and to avoid spreading ahead of major rain events.

"Individual field conditions will vary significantly across the state from one region to the next, and farmers need to assess their fields carefully and take action to ensure that they are in compliance with the RAPs and are protecting Vermont’s waterways," the agency wrote Tuesday.

Practices like restrictions on manure spreading and others outlined in the RAPs are designed to mitigate chances for possible nutrient runoff from farmlands.

Nutrients vital to crop growth like phosphorus and nitrogen can, when washed into waterways, feed sometimes toxic blooms of cyanobacteria often referred to as “blue-green algae.”

In place since 1995, the winter manure spreading ban typically runs from Dec. 15 to April 1.

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