The Central Platte Natural Resources District implemented a nitrogen management program in response to increasing high concentrations of nitrate-nitrogen in the groundwater and vadose zones (areas between root zone/top of water table) in 1987.
High groundwater nitrates in the Central Platte Valley were first identified in 1961. When the Program started, Nitrate levels had increased 0.5 parts per million (ppm) per year to 19.24 ppm, much higher than the maximum contaminant level of 10 ppm allowed by the state and federal government.
One of the ways the Central Platte NRD is monitoring the nitrate levels is to require producers to take deep soil samples and groundwater samples for nitrogen (NO3-N) to submit with their annual crop reports.
Producers in Phases II and III of the Central Platte NRD’s Groundwater Management Program are required to submit their annual Nitrogen Management Form online by March 31, 2019.
The Crop Reporting Website has user-friendly features. Each page of the form is auto-saved. UNL’s recommended Nitrogen application rates are visible and adjusted as producers fill out the form, so they are able see the results of each fertilizer application. The Crop Reporting website address is: cpnrd.gisworkshop.com
Excessively high nitrates can lead to methemoglobinemia, known as “blue baby syndrome” and are also a potential hazard to livestock. Commercial nitrogen fertilizer is the primary cause for high nitrates in groundwater in the Central Platte Valley.
Nitrate levels have been lowered through long-term management efforts by the NRD and landowners implementing efficient practices. The plan uses a phased approach, with lesser restrictions in areas that are not high in nitrates and additional regulations applying to areas with higher nitrate concentrations in the groundwater.
The Central Platte NRD boundaries reach from the Lincoln-Dawson county line near Gothenburg to Hwy 81 near Columbus. The District includes all or parts of 11 counties: Dawson, Custer, Buffalo, Hall, Howard, Nance, Merrick, Hamilton, Platte, Polk, and Frontier.