Study will examine nitrogen outputs of farms in Tisbury Great Pond watershed

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The Dukes Soil Conservation District will look at the nitrogen load of the Tisbury Great Pond to determine the nutrient budgets for all farms within the watershed. — MVT File photo

The Dukes Soil Conservation District (DSCD) will evaluate the agricultural portion of the Tisbury Great Pond Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP) nitrogen load. The nitrogen from agricultural sources has been determined to be more than 40 percent of the total load on adjacent surface waters, exceeding wastewater sources. The substantial agricultural source is unique to the watersheds so far evaluated under MEP.
Bill Wilcox, chairman of the DSCD, said in a press statement that the work will be funded by a grant from the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, part of the Conservation District Initiatives program. The Dukes district has contracted with Don Liptack, former regional district conservationist with USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), to carry out a survey of all farmers in the watershed. The goal is to determine the nutrient budgets for all farms within the watershed. In turn, the survey results will confirm or correct the MEP study’s nutrient-usage figures for both applied fertilizer and livestock waste, identify options to reduce nutrient sources where possible, and provide technical and financial resources through the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to reduce or eliminate sources.
Mr. Wilcox’s statement said he expected the survey to identify approaches to reducing the nitrogen loads and guide farm operators to design and construction assistance from NRCS. Survey contacts will begin next week. DSCD partners in the project include the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society, Island Grown Initiative, the Polly Hill Arboretum, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and the conservation commissions of Chilmark and West Tisbury.