Use of best management practices and pasture and soil quality on maryland horse farms

Nicole M. Fiorellino, Joshua M. McGrath, Bahram Momen, Solomon K. Kariuki, Michael J. Calkins, Amy O. Burk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Agricultural operations, including horse farms, can contribute nonpoint source (NPS) pollution to surface water. The use of best management practices (BMPs) is the most effective way to prevent the movement of pollutants to surface water from nonpoint source pollution. Previous mailed survey studies have assessed the use of BMPs at the county and state level, but a visual assessment of horse farms is necessary to validate survey results. An observational field study was conducted to assess BMP use and soil and pasture quality and to create a model to predict soil erosion on Maryland horse farms. Fifty-one farms were selected based on stocking density (acres per horse [ac horse-1]), farm use, and presence of water on property. All farms were visited from September through November 2009. In each pasture with grazing horses, the correct use of BMPs was assessed, grass height and vegetative cover were measured, and composite soil samples were collected. Less than half of the 18 assessed BMPs were being used by participants. Although most participants maintained the recommended vegetative cover and grass height, soil erosion was a major problem in pastures. Most farms had optimum soil nutrient concentrations (Ca, K, and P), excessive Mg values, and basic soil pH. Vegetative cover and grass height measurements were positively correlated with stocking density (r = 0.345, P <.0001; and r = 0.291, P <.0001, respectively). Farm use was the only variable that predicted soil erosion on farms (P =.006). Farms used for pleasure were least likely to have soil erosion, whereas farms used for breeding were more likely to have soil erosion (P=.0058). Despite the low-to-moderate adoption of BMPs, the maintenance of recommended vegetative cover and grass height as well as optimum values of soil nutrients indicated participating Maryland horse farms have a low potential for nutrient movement and NPS pollution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-264
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Equine Veterinary Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by a grant from the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station . The authors thank the farm operators who participated in the study and allowed our team to visit their farms. We also thank Tim Shellem and the undergraduate students who assisted with the project.


  • Best management practices
  • Horse farms
  • Pasture
  • Soil Maryland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Equine


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