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Cornell University Guidelines for Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans


This overall guidance document is developed by the following authors, at the request of Agriculture and Environmental Management (AEM) certified planners: Quirine Ketterings and Kirsten Workman, Nutrient Management Spear Program (NMSP) and PRODAIRY at Cornell University, Greg Albrecht, Ron Bush, and brendan Jordan, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSAGM), Dale Gates and Josh Hornesky, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Sara Latessa, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), with review and input from the NMSP Internal and external Advisory Committees. To download this page as a pdf, click here.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Nutrient Management Spear Program

Cornell University guidelines for field crops have been available for decades and have provided a useful framework for field crop management in New York State. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Cornell University has determined that the NMSP is responsible for maintaining and updating field crop fertility and nutrient management guidelines. The NMSP has established two committees to provide input: an internal advisory committee consisting of CALS and Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) personnel and an external advisory committee consisting of producers and producer groups, public and private sector planners and state and federal agency staff.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation Permit and Cornell University Guidelines

The first Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Permit for New York was issued in 1999 by the NYSDEC. Since 1999, all permits, including the current New York State Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) and Clean Water Act (CWA) Permits for CAFO operations, require CNMP development to be governed by the NRCS 590 Nutrient Management Standard for New York (NY-NRCS 590) and related standards. The current permits directly reference the following Cornell University documents: "Revised Winter and Wet Weather Manure Spreading Guidelines to Reduce Water Contamination Risk", "Manure Management Guidelines for Limestone Bedrock/Karst Areas of Genesee County, New York: Practices for Risk Reduction", and "Manure and Groundwater Protection Guidelines". Additionally, the NY-NRCS 590 standard references Cornell fertility guidelines for nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) management as well as the New York P Runoff Index (NY-PI) and the Nitrate Leaching Index. All guidance is designed to support the 4R concept of nutrient stewardship which promotes the right source, right rate, right time and right place for fertility amendments.

The NRCS standards and Cornell University guidelines are updated from time to time. In New York, terms of a permit are fixed on the effective date identified on the cover page of the particular permit. The effective date of the current ECL CAFO General Permit, is July 24, 2017, and the effective date of the CWA CAFO General Permit is July 9, 2019. The permits can be consulted to determine effective date and what versions of standards and guidelines are required to develop plans under the particular permit. Although NRCS standards and Cornell Guidelines that were in place on the effective dates are the governing documents for preparing a CNMP, it is acceptable and encouraged to use the most recent standards and guidelines published.

State CNMPs must be developed by or under the supervision of AEM certified planners who are expected to be familiar with this information and to properly utilize it in the planning process. For this reason, CNMP training programs were developed and offered subsequent to the issuance of the initial CAFO permit for New York in 1999, by Cornell University faculty and staff, NRCS, NYSAGM, NYSDEC, and New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee staff.

It is important to understand that not every Cornell field crop resource item (e.g., fact sheet, guide, article, webpage) is a Cornell University guideline that must be followed for compliance with New York State CAFO requirements. Key focus areas related to CNMPs are N and P management. Guidance associated with N and P in terms of soil fertility management (including pH management) and assessment of risk of environmental loss of those nutrients is required to be used to formulate a CNMP. Potassium (K) is not considered, at this time, to be a nutrient of concern for water quality, so its management is not regulated for CNMP development. However, farmers are encouraged to apply K according to plant needs (based on the Morgan soil test) and avoid over-fertilization as plants simply take up more K than needed when it is available, increasing cost of production and resulting in elevated K levels that can increase the risk of milk fever when fed to dry and transition cows.

Required Topics and Cornell University Guidance Documents

For development of Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs) to meet the New York State CAFO Permit requirements, the following topics are important:

  • Soil sampling guidelines and soil testing at least once every three years;
  • Estimating Cornell Morgan soil test P equivalents when other soil testing methods or laboratories are used;
  • pH management;
  • Phosphorus fertility guidelines for field crops;
  • Phosphorus Index to assess runoff risk;
  • Nitrogen fertility guidelines for field crops;
  • Nitrate Leaching Index to assess leaching potential;
  • Annual sampling of each manure source and applying manure credits from manure applications past and present;
  • Grass fertilization guidelines for 1-2, 2-3 or 4-5 cut systems;
  • Adaptive management guidelines for nitrogen when supplemental nitrogen is planned;
  • Nutrient guidelines for vegetables when land for vegetable production is part of a CNMP;
  • Winter and wet weather manure application and groundwater protection guidelines.

The following documents are required Cornell University guidelines for CNMP development. The guidance presented in these documents listed below reflects current (and past) authors’ best effort to interpret a complex body of scientific research and to translate this into practical management options, and are required Cornell University guidelines for CNMP development:

Several updates and new guideline documents are currently under development; this list will be updated as necessary. Older documents, replaced in part by the new documents listed above, include:

Supplemental Cornell guidance prepared over the past 15 years relating to CNMP development has been made available through Agronomy Factsheets. The content of many of these factsheets is being incorporated into 2021/2022 updates (ongoing) The N and P fertility related elements of the following factsheets are required Cornell University guidelines for CNMP development as applicable:

Additional useful guidelines (not required in a CNMP) include:

For Further Information:

Information on field crops fertility guidelines can be obtained from Quirine Ketterings ( or 607-255-3061) or Kirsten Workman ( or 607-255-4890). You can also write to: Quirine Ketterings, Nutrient Management Spear Program, Department of Animal Science, Cornell University, 323 Morrison Hall, Ithaca NY 14853.