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2-day course to focus on nutrient management


AT A TIME when the health of the Chesapeake Bay is getting increased attention from state legislative leaders, the Maryland Department of Agriculture is stepping up its educational program on management of pollutants blamed for contamination of the bay.

The department has scheduled a two-day class "Fundamentals of Nutrient Management," for June 29 and 30 at its headquarters in Annapolis.

The course will present an overview of topics covered by the Maryland Nutrient Management Certification Examination.

Topics will include state nutrient management regulations, nutrient management principles, basic soil science and soil fertility recommendations. Instructors are university, government and industry experts.

The class is designed for those planning to take the Maryland Nutrient Management Certification exam and consultants interested in refreshing their nutrient management knowledge.

It also would benefit farmers who want to know more about nutrient management, as well as natural resource managers.

The department emphasizes that the course is not the training program for farmers who want to write their own nutrient management plans.

Nutrient management was a hot topic in state government in 1997 when the runoff of nutrients from manure used as fertilizer was the prime suspect in outbreaks of toxic Pfiesteria piscicida in waters flowing into the bay.

Fish kills and human illness forced the closing of portions of three rivers to recreational use. The outbreaks triggered panic over the safety of Maryland seafood and knocked the tourism industry for a loop.

In April, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller announced the formation of a joint commission with the goal of helping farmers implement agricultural practices that stem the flow of pollutants into the bay and its tributaries.

Their initiative came seven years after Gov. Parris N. Glendening signed the Water Quality Improvement Act of 1998, legislation that required farmers to establish nutrient management plans to accomplish the same goal.

As of last week, about 64 percent of the farmers in the state had established the required plans to control pollutant runoff from their farms.

The legislative group is scheduled to hold a series of town meetings throughout the summer to hear about issues and opportunities associated with farm waste and the economic viability of farming in Maryland.

The commission anticipates legislation for the 2006 General Assembly based on recommendations developed through the town meeting process.

The goal, Miller and Busch said, is to find solutions to keep excess manure off the land and provide financial incentives for farmers.

@SUBHEDSoil-conservation panel to meet Thursday

The state Soil Conservation Committee will hold its monthly meeting at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the Maryland Department of Agriculture's headquarters in Annapolis.

The meeting is open to the public and will focus on soil conservation and water-quality program implementation and policy development. The 67-year-old organization advises the state secretary of agriculture on matters related to soil and water conservation.

@SUBHEDUM names new dean of agricultural college

Cheng-I Wei has been named the new dean of the University of Maryland's College of Agricultural and Natural Resources.

He will begin his new job Sept. 1.

Wei is a professor and associate dean of research and graduate studies at the College of Human Environmental Sciences at Oklahoma State University.

He has held that position since August 2002.

He will take over from Bruce L. Gardner, who has been serving as interim dean.

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