New farm-mapping website to aid in nutrient management, conservation

University Park, Pa. -- Pennsylvania farmers looking to meet the state's regulatory requirements for erosion and sediment control and nutrient-management planning can find help at PaOneStop, an online service from Penn State Extension that enables farmers to produce required maps of their farms.

Developed in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Conservation Commission, the state departments of agriculture and environmental protection, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the National Consortium for Rural Innovations in America, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service, the service is a suite of online tools being developed for nutrient management and erosion and sedimentation-control planning.

The first module of PaOneStop, currently available for use, enables farmers to create maps required for completion of nutrient balance sheets for imported manure, and nutrient- management plans as required by Pennsylvania's Nutrient Management Act. Additional modules, now under development, will provide conservation tools to help farmers develop or update their own erosion and sedimentation plans.

"Recently, state environmental regulations have been revised, increasing the number of Pennsylvania farmers who need to complete nutrient-management plans, erosion and sedimentation plans, and nutrient balance sheets for manure transfers," said Rick Day, associate professor of soil science and environmental information systems.

"State regulations require completion of nutrient balance sheets for manure transfers to protect water quality," he said. "The state conservation commission estimates that more than 50,000 nutrient balance sheets are completed annually.

"The balance sheets require maps as part of the submission process, and that's difficult for most farmers -- the maps and plans should include field boundaries, acreages, stream and water features, wells, application setbacks and buffers, soils, aerial images and more."

PaOneStop users can access color aerial images of their farm; outline boundaries and calculate acreages of their fields; access Natural Resource Conservation Service soils maps and data for fields; and record such farm features as wells, sinkholes, ponds and streams. They also can access topographic maps, determine manure setbacks and buffers, and produce hardcopy maps needed for regulatory compliance.

There is no charge for use of PaOneStop and no special software required. All farm information entered into the system is kept confidential and consultants or managers of multiple farms can map as many farms as needed under a single log-in.
A PaOneStop module is currently under development to help farmers develop erosion and sedimentation plans, which are meant to minimize soil loss and thereby protect rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. The new module will estimate annual soil loss for each field under its current management system and provide tools to evaluate alternative management practices if soil losses are too high.

It will use many of the mapping features in the current system, so fields only need to be mapped once.

An erosion and sedimentation plan, Day explained, is like a "mini" conservation plan and is required in the Department of Environmental Protection's Chapter 102 requirements. He says of Pennsylvania's approximately 59,000 farms, up to 40,000 lack current plans in compliance with DEP's Chapter 102 regulation.

"The current rate of plan development is much too slow, partially because farmers lack tools to develop and modify their own erosion and sedimentation plans," he said. "PaOneStop will increase the rate of plan development and bring more farms into regulatory compliance."

For many farmers, current management systems may be acceptable and no changes will be required. However, current regulations state that an erosion and sedimentation plan must be completed even if current management is acceptable, so this procedure must be done for all farms to be legally compliant with regulations.

To get started, visit the PaOneStop website at www.paonestop.org, create a user name and password and start mapping. For online assistance or additional information, call toll-free 1-877-722-4724, or email Rick Day (rday@psu.edu) or Bob Neiderer (rjn11@psu.edu). Penn State Extension will be conducting training sessions on the use of PaOneStop in the near future.

"Currently there are more than 350 users of the system who have mapped more than 1,000 different farms," Day said. "We also will have numerous training events coming up."

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Last Updated July 21, 2011