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Nutrient management planning

Information on effective nutrient application and management, for extension agents, agri-business service providers and farmers.


Many farmers use livestock manure as an alternative nutrient source to offset fertilizer requirements. Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs) integrate and balance sources of nutrients (i.e., fertilizer, manure and soil) with crop requirements. An NMP is key to ensuring that nutrients for crop production are used in an economically and environmentally responsible way.

NMPs in Alberta

NMPs in most jurisdictions share several common features including:

  • an estimate of nutrient requirements for a crop and field
  • an evaluation of the nutrient content of available nutrient sources
  • an application strategy to meet nutrient requirements in an efficient and environmentally responsible way

Nutrient management planning in Alberta involves 5 key steps:

  1. Field (or site) assessment

Includes soil test information (e.g., texture, organic matter, E.C. and soil nutrient content), area, estimated length and grade of any slopes, problem soil conditions (e.g., solonetzic soils) and limiting physical features such as environmentally sensitive areas (e.g., water bodies).

  1. Manure inventory

Includes estimated nutrient content (from lab analysis or book values), estimated manure volume(s) and desired information about the animal population or the operation (e.g., number of animals, phase of production, housing and feeding system, etc.).

  1. Nutrient application plan

Includes information about type of manure and fertilizer applied, method of application and incorporation, application rates and timing, including the nutrient on which manure application is based (i.e., N or P), equipment calibration, cropping system and planned crop rotation.

  1. Land management plan

Includes information on production practices and other control systems to reduce post-application nutrient losses.

  1. Record keeping system

Includes a system of record keeping that complies with the Agricultural Operation Practices Act (AOPA) record keeping requirement for manure application.


AOPA establishes standards for siting, development and certain management practices for livestock operations in Alberta. While Agriculture and Forestry is responsible for the Act, the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) administers the regulations under the Act.

The Standards and Administration Regulation under AOPA establishes standards for manure management in Alberta in 5 key areas:

  • manure storage facility design
  • manure application limits
  • manure application setback distances from water bodies
  • manure incorporation requirements
  • record keeping
  • soil testing

See Manure management guidelines and legislation for more information.

While manure storage facility design is not a component of nutrient management planning, compliance issues relating to the remaining four areas above are discussed in relevant chapters of the following Nutrient Management Planning Guide.

Planning guide

How to use the guide

The Nutrient Management Planning Guide provides comprehensive information, techniques and tips on how to evaluate fields, collect important information and calculate nutrient application rates. In addition, the manure management information in the publication is linked back to Alberta’s manure and nutrient application regulations of the Agricultural Operation Practices Act (AOPA)ensuring that management decisions meet regulatory requirements.

The guide is divided into 8 modules, and each module is broken down into chapters on specific topics. This allows you to identify the specific information you need quickly.

Table of contents

Module 1 – Introduction
1.1  About this Guide
1.2  Nutrient Management Planning in Alberta

Module 2 – Nutrient Cycling and Interactions
2.1  Soil Nutrient Cycling
2.2  Basic Soil-Plant Interactions
2.3  Manure and Fertilizer as Sources of Nutrients and Potential Environmental Hazards

Module 3 – Field and Soil Evaluation
3.1  Field Assessment
3.2  Using Aerial Photos for Nutrient Management Planning
3.3  Soil Sampling
3.4  Practical Use of Soil Analysis Results

Module 4 – Manure Inventory and Application
4.1  Estimating Manure Inventory
4.2  Manure Sampling
4.3  Manure Test Interpretation
4.4  Manure Application and Alberta's Agricultural Operation Practices Act (AOPA)
4.5  Manure Application Equipment
4.6  Calibrating Manure Application Equipment

Module 5 – Fertilizer Application
5.1  Getting the Most out of Commercial Fertilizer Applications

Module 6 – Determining Nutrient Requirements
6.1  Calculating Manure Application Rates and Fertilizer Requirements

Module 7 – Record Keeping
7.1  Record Keeping Requirements and the Agricultural Operation Practices Act (AOPA)
7.2  AFFIRM and Alberta MMP Software

Module 8 – Land and Production Management
8.1  Factors Affecting Runoff Nutrient Losses
8.2  Cropping Practices to Reduce Nutrient Losses in Runoff
8.3  Constructed Erosion Control Measures to Reduce Nutrient Losses in Runoff


Contact 310-FARM

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Toll free: 310-FARM (3276) (in Alberta)
Phone: 403-742-7901 (outside Alberta)
Email: [email protected]

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