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Dave Legvold, Minnesota BMP participant
BMP Participant Dave Legvold of Minnesota understands the importance of responsibly managing his land for his community and the environment. "Our urban neighbors need to know that for the dollars invested in agriculture they get something back: the conservation of soil and water."

AFT's Environmental Solutions
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Overview of the
BMP Challenge
BMP Challenge for Nutrient Management BMP Challenge for Reduced Tillage BMP Challenge for Reduced Nitrogen

AFT's BMP Challenge

BMP Challenge Results
Farmers have reduced fertilizer use by 24 percent through the Nutrient BMP Challenge.
Reduced tillage practices have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 69 percent and soil erosion by 78 percent on thousands of acres in the Midwest.

Best Management Practices (BMPs) support conservation goals like protecting against soil loss and keeping nutrient’s from leaving the farm. When done right, BMPs can improve the environment while also improving the farmer’s bottom line.

But for a farmer, implementing BMPs can feel like making a bet against their income. We’re asking farmers to believe that lesser amounts of fertilizer, sometimes substantially less, will deliver the same yields. Or use reduced tillage, which reduces erosion but can delay soil warming and plant growth.

AFT's innovative solution, the BMP Challenge, overcomes this challenge by guaranteeing against any potential loss of income for farmers who reduce fertilizer use or utilize reduced tillage practices.

How the BMP Challenge Works

The BMP Challenge for Nutrient Management and BMP Challenge for Reduced Tillage pay farmers cash if yield and income are reduced while participating in the BMP Challenge. Unique performance guarantees allow farmers to try conservation practices on their own land, observe performance over time in side-by-side comparisons, and evaluate economic impact, without risk to income due to yield loss. 

Traditional fertilizer rates or tillage practices are used on a check strip in each enrolled field. The BMP fertilizer rates or tillage practices are used on the balance of the field. Crop yields are assessed at harvest, and any farmer experiencing lower yields with the BMP fertilizer application rate or tillage practice will be reimbursed the difference. In any one year, BMPs may not result in maximum yields, but they are designed to deliver maximum economic returns over time.

Find out more about the BMP Challenge for the 2012 season.

2011 Feasibility Study: Improving Water Quality in the Chesapeake Bay [PDF]

Expanding the BMP Challenge to More Farmers

Since 1998, we have tested the BMP Challenge on nutrient reduction and on carbon sequestration with over 50 farmers on 9,200 acres in seven Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states.

The BMP Challenge has proven extremely effective in engaging farmers who have not responded to previous efforts. In addition, experience shows that many participating farmers have extended their practices to additional acres not covered by the BMP Challenge performance guarantee once they see the results for themselves. The performance guarantee helps alleviate uncertainties farmers have about implementing new, more aggressive nutrient management strategies.

With our Agriculture & Environment campaign, we're working to triple the acreage enrolled in the BMP Challenge to 30,000 acres. This will result in a reduction of 756,000 pounds of Nitrogen, 6,800 pounds of Phosphorus and 7.7 million tons of carbon. Through targeted demonstration projects, we're expanding programs and jumpstarting environmental trading markets in our targeted watersheds.

Who's Eligible?

Farmers in California, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont Virginia or Wisconsin who grow corn for grain and silage are eligible for the program.

The BMP Challenge map of project states

The BMP Challenge is supported in part by grants from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Altria Group, McKnight Foundation and the Great Lakes Protection Fund. Note: AFT and its public partners are exempt from any liability associated with the commercial service guarantee contract between Agflex and the farmer. Project collaborators include Agflex, the IPM Institute of North America and IPM Works. Farmers wanting to sign-up can visit www.bmpchallenge.org.

Contact Us

For more information about the BMP Challenge, contact:

BMP Challenge
American Farmland Trust
Brian Brandt
Director, Agriculture Conservation Innovations
Worthington, OH 43215
(614) 430-8130

American Farmland Trust