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Reducing Nitrogen Fertilizer and Indirect Energy Usage

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Working the Soil - Courtesy NRCS Image GalleryAbout a third of all energy used in U.S. agriculture goes to commercial fertilizer and pesticide production, the most energy-intensive of all farm inputs. Many producers are saving money by reducing these "indirect" forms of energy consumption.

Successful strategies include the use of cover crops and manures (both green & animal), nitrogen-fixing crop rotations, composting and compost teas, and integrated pest management.

NOTE: Some of the following documents are available as Adobe Acrobat PDFs. Download Acrobat Reader.

ATTRA Publications

Alternative Soil Amendments - IP054

PDF Price: $0.99 for non-members

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Farm Energy Calculators: Tools for Saving Money on the Farm - IP326


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Nutrient Cycling in Pastures - IP136


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Overview of Cover Crops and Green Manures - IP024

PDF Price: $1.95 for non-members

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Principles of Sustainable Weed Management for Croplands - IP039

PDF Price: $1.95 for non-members

 • Summary • Buy PDF  • Buy Print Copy
Pursuing Conservation Tillage Systems for Organic Crop Production - IP183


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Sources of Organic Fertilizers and Amendments

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Energy Calculator Links

Fertilizer Calculator, Oregon Tilth and Oregon State University
Synthetic fertilizer is the largest indirect energy cost on most farms. This updated, organic fertilizer calculator will help you choose soil amendments based on cost effectiveness and soil and crop requirements. There are commercial and small farm Microsoft Excel calculators and instructions. Note that there are several worksheets within the calculator.
Montana State University Farm Energy Calculator
This energy calculator helps you examine the costs and energy used in three different tillage systems for a range of crops including winter wheat, spring wheat, barley, canola, flax, lentils and camelina. In addition to crop acres, the calculator requires some summer fallowed acres be included in the crop mix.
Nitrogen Management on Dairy Farms
This Web site, a partnership of Cornell University, the University of Vermont and the USDA, is designed to deliver background information and management guidelines for efficient nitrogen use throughout the dairy farm system. It covers crop and soil nitrogen management, feed storage nitrogen management, herd nitrogen management and manure storage nitrogen management.
USDA-NRCS Energy Estimator: Nitrogen
This Natural Resources Conservation Service energy consumption tool enables you to calculate the cost of nitrogen product use on your farm or ranch by evaluating options based on user input.
USDA-NRCS Energy Estimator: Tillage
The tool developed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service estimates diesel fuel use and costs in the production of key crops in your area and compares potential energy savings between conventional tillage and alternative tillage systems.


Conservation Systems Research Team
Part of the USDA-ARS National Soil Dynamics Laboratory, this site contains information on the environmental and economic effects of crop residues on crop production and carbon sequestration.
Conservation Technology Information Center
Promotes and disseminates comprehensive data, research and materials related to conservation agriculture.
Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
Research, publications, and links on energy and agriculture from Iowa State University.
No-Till Farmer
Internet monthly newsletter, discussion board, a directory of no-till equipment suppliers and details on the annual National No-Till Conference.
No-Till on the Plains Inc.
Information to farmers on adopting No-till and other sustainable production methods. Website contains resources, events, and a no-till discussion board.
Rodale Institute's No-Till Revolution
Information, links, and research on organic no-till farming systems. Website contains trial results, design plans, and photographs for rolling-crimping cover crops.


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This page was last updated on: January 19, 2015