In 2016, follow best management practices when applying fertilizers. 

You should implement best management practices, or BMPs, to decrease the amounts of pesticides, fertilizers, animal wastes and other pollutants from entering water sources, and to conserve water supply. 

You can follow BMPs whether you are growing vegetables, row crops, pastures, lawns or even wildlife food plots.

Why BMPs are important

Nitrogen can leave soil by volatilization, soil erosion, runoff, leaching and crop removal, but the greatest nitrogen loss, globally, is due to leaching, erosion and runoff. 

You should minimize nitrogen fertilizer losses for environmental and economic reasons. 

Phosphorus also can leave soils. This usually is through runoff, erosion and crop removal, but minor leaching can occur. 

Nitrogen and phosphorus that leach or run off into waterways can disrupt nutrient cycles and thus impair waterways. 

BMP examples

1. Test the soil. Remember: "If you don’t test, it’s just a guess."

Why throw away fertilizer?  That’s not good for your wallet or the environment.

Soil test results give you the pH and the current level of nutrients in the soil, and recommended fertilizer rates to optimize crop growth. 

You must first adjust your soil pH.  Without the optimal soil pH, essential nutrients will not be available to the plant. 

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Soil Testing Lab can perform your soil test for just $7. 

Contact the Okaloosa County Extension Office, 689-5850, for more information.

2. Right time. Apply fertilizer when the crop is actively growing.

Do not apply before a heavy rain; this will cause nutrients to leach down past the plant's root zone. 

In addition, split applications of nitrogen and potassium are recommended for optimal growth and less risk of polluting the environment.

Adopting just these two BMPs will make a huge impact on our environment and will save you money. 

The goal is to use just the right amount of fertilizer to supply what the crop needs when it needs it. 

Good luck in your growing endeavors in 2016. 

Jennifer Bearden is an agent at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension office in Crestview.