4th UF Water Institute Symposium Abstract

Submitter's Name Jamie Cohen
Session Name Poster Session: Science, stakeholders and decision-making
Poster Number 17
Author(s) Jamie Cohen,  PI (Presenting Author)
  Composting and its Benefits: Achieving Practice Change Through Education to Reduce Nutrient Loads and Increase Agriculture BMP Usage.
  Situation: The 2007 Small Farms Ag Census Data shows Florida having 10,414,877 acres in “small farms”. Marion County, Florida “Horse Capital of the World”, has 3496 small farms, a significant percentage of those being horse farms. Marion County is also home to two first magnitude freshwater springs, both currently in the Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) Process. Several of Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Best Management Practices (BMP’s) Manuals recommend composting as viable best management practice (BMP) options to correctly handle animal waste. Besides helping to protect the surface and ground waters by helping to decrease non-point source pollution, it can also improve soil health and be a tremendous soil amendment. Methods: Composting workshops are continually delivered to farm owners/managers, having equine and other livestock, on cost-effective and practical animal waste composting. Each program given is tailored to educate on manure’s adverse affects on water, how composting manure can improve soil health after land application and how proactive change of manure management systems is improved BMP usage to reduce nutrients to the ground and surface waters. Education is further given on available farm improvement cost-share options. Results: Pre and post-test workshop results showed a (n= 51) 63% increase in knowledge gain from information taught to n= 81 of total participants attending. Six-month follow-up test will be given to verify BMP improvement and composting usage of farms; two farms are currently in talks with SWFWMD for composting bin cost-share construction as a result of programs delivered. Conclusion: The end results/impacts are to improve water quality and decrease nitrate levels for improvement of ground and surface water nitrogen levels in Marion County and the state. Improved farm management practices are derived from increased knowledge and understanding of BMPs and manure management, both coming from continuing education.