Nutrients are chemicals that help plants grow. The term is usually used to describe the materials that farmers apply to their fields, including manure and chemical fertilizers. When applied in proper quantities and at appropriate times, nutrients help achieve optimum crop yields. However, improper use of nutrients can actually do more harm than good and can cause water quality problems both locally and downstream. The objective of nutrient management is to use nutrients (mainly nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) wisely for optimum benefit and minimal impact on the environment.
Surface and groundwater can become contaminated with harmful microorganisms if nutrients are not managed appropriately.
Plant nutrients that escape from farms to fresh water can lead to poor quality drinking water on the farm or by other users downstream.
Nutrients are easily dissolved in soil water and can be quickly transported to surface or ground water by leaching or through runoff.
The Ontario government introduced the Nutrient Management Act in 2002. Under the act, phased-in farms must develop nutrient management strategies and plans to deal with animal waste and other substances that are kept on farm properties or spread on fields. Nutrient management plans help ensure that farms are managed in an environmentally responsible way to prevent contamination of lakes, streams and groundwater.
The act contains comprehensive, enforceable, province-wide standards to regulate the management of all materials that are applied to land by the agricultural industry, municipalities and other generators of materials containing nutrients.
The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for enforcing the act’s standards, while the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is responsible for keeping you informed of progress on nutrient-management-standards development and technical aspects of nutrient management practices and technologies.