Runoff from agricultural sites can be an important source of phosphorus pollution. To help evaluate and reduce this risk, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) first proposed a phosphorus index concept in the early 1990s.
Since then, science progressed and methods improved. In New York State, scientists and agency staff developed and released a phosphorus index in 2003. Now, a new project proposes a restructured index to build on phosphorus management efforts in that state and beyond.
"The idea is to account for the characteristics of a field, and help evaluate the risk of phosphorus runoff from that location," says Quirine Ketterings, lead author of the new study.
The new index structure improves upon previous approaches. It focuses on the existing risk of phosphorus runoff from a field based on the location and how it is currently managed. Qualities like ground cover, erosion potential, and distance to a stream or water-body all come into play. The index also highlights best management practices to reduce this risk.
"The new index approach will direct farmers toward an increasingly safer series of practices," says Ketterings. "Higher-risk fields require more and safer practices to reduce and manage phosphorus runoff."
Ketterings directs the nutrient management spear program at Cornell University. She and her colleagues used a combination of surveys, computer-generated examples, and old-fashioned number crunching. They used characteristics of thousands of farm fields to develop the new index. Involving farmers and farm advisors was also a key step.
"As stakeholders, farmers and farm advisors are more likely to make changes if they understand why," says Ketterings. "Plus, they have experience and knowledge that folks in academia and in governmental agencies often do not."
This field experience can be vital. "Involving stakeholders in decision-making and getting their feedback makes the final product more workable," says Ketterings. "It may also prevent mistakes that limit implementation and effectiveness."
Ketterings stresses that the previous index was not wrong.
"Farming is a business of continuous improvement and so is science," she says. "The initial index was based on the best scientific understanding available at that time. Our new index builds and improves upon the experience and scientific knowledge we have accumulated since the first index was implemented. It is likely this new index will be updated in the future as our knowledge evolves."
The previous index approach could be somewhat time-consuming for planners, according to Ketterings. Further, it didn't always help identify the most effective practices for farmers. The new approach addresses both of these issues.
"We wanted the new index to be practical to use," she says. "The best index has no value if people cannot or will not implement it."
In some circumstances of low or medium soil test phosphorus, the original New York state phosphorus index allowed farms to apply manure and fertilizer in what we now consider to be potentially high-risk settings.
"The new index approach proposes soil test phosphorus cutoffs and also encourages placing manure below the soil surface," says Ketterings. "These changes will bring improvements in phosphorus utilization and management across the farm."
Ketterings also thinks that the new index is more intuitive.
"It allows for ranking of fields based on their inherent risk of phosphorus transport if manure was applied," she says. "It really emphasizes implementing best management practices to reduce phosphorus losses from fields."
In addition, the proposed index approach could make it easier to develop similar indices across state lines, according to Ketterings. This makes sense, since watersheds don't follow state boundaries. Growers could use different practices, if deemed appropriate, for different regions.
READ MORE about Ketterings' work in Journal of Environmental Quality.
Liquid manure application in the Midwest typically happens in spring and fall each year. The majority of liquid manure application takes place using a tank or a dragline applicator, providing additional nutrients to crops.
Tank applicators transport manure from the livestock facility to agricultural fields and apply manure using a tank-mounted tool-bar. For fields that are close-by, manure can be pumped directly to the dragline-mounted tool-bar. In either case, a pre-determined application rate is used to pump manure through a manifold, which distributes manure to the application points across the tool-bar.
“Environmental regulations require producers to make sure manure is being applied to agricultural fields in accordance with their manure management plans,” said Dan Andersen, assistant professor and extension agricultural engineering specialist with Iowa State University.
Variations in tank capacities, manure densities and the presence of foam can cause the application rate to be different from the target number, as can variations in drive speed. Application rate should be verified, and both tank and dragline applicators need to be calibrated to ensure accurate application.
Both distribution of manure and calibrating the applicators are covered in a pair of new ISU Extension and Outreach publications – “Distribution of Liquid Manure Application” (AE 3600) and “Calibrating Liquid Tank Manure Applicators” (AE 3601A). Both are available through the Extension Store. A “Calibration Worksheet for Liquid Manure Tank Applicators” (AE 3601B) is also available.
Calibration of the application rate, in terms of gallons per acre applied, can be achieved using an area volume method. For applicators without automated controls, the volume of manure applied in a given pass should be determined. Knowing the density of the manure and the area covered in the pass, the application rate can be determined. Instructions for determining density and coverage area are included in publication AE 3601A.
There are manure applicators that use tractor-mounted automated flow controls to achieve accurate application rates. In these cases, flow controllers use a flow meter with an actuator to govern the flow rate and, subsequently the application rate.
“The majority of flow meters are set at the factory for their rated measurements, which can potentially be different when used for manure application,” said Kapil Arora, agricultural engineering specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “The flow meters should be verified to ensure they are providing correct flow rate readouts to the flow controls.”
Achieving calibration of the target application rates only provides an average amount applied on a per acre basis. This application rate is delivered to the manifold mounted on the tool-bar, which then distributes the manure to the application points. This distribution of the manure across the tool-bar swath should be uniform so the variability among application points is minimal. This distribution should be verified only after the calibration for the application rate has been completed.
Split manure application, manure application to soybeans, high total nitrogen testing manures, and use of the Maximum Return to Nitrogen Rate Calculator can all cause the manure application rates to be lower than what was previously being used.
“Distribution across the toolbar points can be verified by capturing the discharge from each point for a known time,” Arora said. “Care should be taken to set up the equipment as close to the field conditions as possible. Aim for as low a variation as possible in the captured discharge so that better distribution is achieved across the toolbar swath.”
Kapil Arora is an agricultural and biosystems engineering specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Daniel Andersen is an agricultural and biosystems engineer, also with ISU Extension.
According to my youngest child, he’s just too darn healthy.
March 9, 2017, Ada, OH – An inspector with the Ohio Department of Agriculture says there are two common mistakes farmers make when applying manure in crop fields.
Kevin Elder is chief of livestock environmental permitting at the Ohio Department of Agriculture. He says the most common mistakes are an accidental manure discharge in tile outlets and applying manure to frozen ground. READ MORE
March 9, 2017, LaFayette, NY — Neighbors in LaFayette are making a stink about a manure storage unit being built to hold animal waste.
In the next few months, an area farmer plans to install a manure storage pit on the land. It’s expected to hold 2.4 million gallons of animal waste. READ MORE
February 24, 2017, Wellington, FL – Palm Beach County commissioners approved a land use change that would allow a horse manure recycling facility to operate between Belle Glade and Wellington, the epicenter of the county’s equestrian industry.
The land use change will be transmitted to state officials for review and come back to commissioners for final approval in March or April when Horizon Compost hopes to get approval of its zoning application for a facility that would be located on 32 acres eight miles east of Belle Glade and eight miles west of Wellington. READ MORE
February 20, 2017, Champaign, IL – A University of Illinois agriculture professor believes technology is changing the way farmers view manure.
Professor Richard Gates not only runs the “Manure Central Program" — sort of an online market for the manure trade — but offers mobile phone applications for farmers to manage their manure inventory, as well. READ MORE
February 20, 2017, Lancaster, PA — A state legislator from Chester County has looked into the possibility of setting a minimum age for commercial manure haulers, but he says he is not necessarily thinking of proposing legislation.
February 15, 2017, Findlay, OH – Given the warmer than normal winter and large amounts of rainfall received in areas, some livestock producers will be looking to apply manure in February when farm fields are frozen enough to support application equipment.
Permitted farms are not allowed to apply manure in the winter unless it is an extreme emergency, and then movement to other suitable storage is usually the selected alternative. This article is for medium and small livestock operations. READ MORE
January 18, 2017 – The Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center has partnered with the Manure & Soil Health team to present four roundtables aimed at improving knowledge and understanding about the role of manure in soil health.
The four, hour-long roundtables will consist of a panel discussion with two to three experts who will be asked to summarize their current understanding of each roundtable topic. Each panel will also include a practitioner who will share perspective on critical information needs of farmers and advisors and field experiences relative to use of manure. Panels will be moderated to encourage interaction with audience. Roundtable participants will be invited to ask questions of panelists and share expertise and experience through polling pods and a chat box.
All of the roundtables start at 11 a.m. CT (noon ET) and in the following order:
- Feb. 9, 2017 – Manure & soil health testing (Dr. Bianca Moebius-Clune, Donna Brandt, Russell Dresbach, Geoff Ruth)
- Feb. 16, 2017 – Manure & soil biology (Rhae Drijber, Michele Soupir, Dr. Jonathan Lundgren)
- Feb.23, 2017 – Manure & soil erosion, runoff, and losses (Nathan Nelson, John Gilley, Mike Kucera, Andy Scholting)
- March 9, 2017 – Manure & cover crops (Tim Harrigan, Barry Fischer, Heidi Johnson, Sarah Carlson)
Attendees are asked to register for the dates that correspond to the topics they are interested in. After registering, a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting will be sent.
If a microphone and speakers are available on the computer being used, phone line participation is not needed. For those new to Zoom, three short videos may prove helpful:
Farmers facing tight markets can impact their profitability by understanding the top five criteria in manure management decisions, according to experts at the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) recent manure management workshop.
More than 60 farmers attended the event to learn how to better manage their fertilizer source on and off the farm.
“The first thing you’ve got to do is determine how much manure you need and where it should be applied,” noted Abe Sandquist, founder of Natural Fertilizer Services. Addressing manure needs is a game of building organic matter and maintaining soil fertility. This balance can be achieved by comparing yield history, manure sampling and soil testing.
“Soil testing is kind of like figuring the odds of your fertility,” said Sandquist. “When you’re fertilizing in a low soil test field, you’ve got a higher chance of getting a yield response that’s profitable.”
Secondly, Sandquist said farmers must determine what equipment they will use based on holding capacity, density of their manure source and the range it can be hauled economically.
Dan Andersen, an agricultural and biosystems engineering assistant professor of Iowa State University, noted that manure management decisions should make manure “logistically cheaper to move and more nutrient rich.”
Although solid manure is easier to transport, liquid manure generally retains more nitrogen, especially if it is stored in a deep pit rather than a lagoon. According to Andersen, manure storage systems of the future will likely be designed to retain even higher nutrient levels.
Another component of manure management includes precision application. Thanks to advancements in GPS technology, manure application tools have allowed farmers to better target their acres using variable rate control and yield analyses. The trick to benefiting from these advanced tools also involves optimum timing of application.
“Immediate injection or incorporation will reduce ammonia volatilization and retain 95 to 100 percent of the nitrogen content in the soil,” said Dr. Jim Friedericks, outreach and education advisor at AgSource Laboratories. “Broadcasting or surface application will reduce retention from 70 to 90 percent.”
Lastly, alternative options such as selling manure or composting give livestock farmers flexibility in managing their fertilizer source. However, depending on the size of the farm, certain rules and regulations must be followed to ensure land and water resources are safeguarded. Farmers who have questions about these guidelines can contact the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers for a free and confidential consultation.
CSIF is a non-profit organization that assists livestock farmers who want help interpreting rules and regulations, guidance on good site locations for barns, counsel on enhancing neighbor relations and tips on how to protect the environment at no cost. It was created as a joint partnership involving the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Egg Council, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation and Midwest Dairy Association.
Haley Banwart is an assistant field specialist with the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers.
A 16-year-old farm boy from Wisconsin; a middle-aged Michigan dairy farmer; a 56-year-old pig farmer and his 18-year-old hired hand, both from Quebec, Canada; two brothers from a dairying family in South Dakota; a 29-year-old cattle farmer, also from Wisconsin – 2016 was a dangerous year for those managing and handling manure.
According to reports, all of the people from this sampling of 2016 manure gas fatalities were going about their normal day-to-day work – spreading manure, making repairs, agitating a lagoon, servicing equipment. These were activities they’d probably done dozens of times before without incident.
“Complacency kills,” stated Robb Meinen, a senior Extension associate with Penn State University, in a recent news release on manure gas safety. “It is not unusual in fatality situations to hear things like: ‘He’s gone in there to unclog that pump a hundred times.’”
It’s easy to take safety for granted. After all, we live in an increasingly bubble-wrapped world where even silica packets in shoeboxes warn us not to eat them. And while most farmers understand the dangers of entering enclosed spaces, such as pump pits and under-barn manure storages, some wouldn’t expect to find the same gas hazards working in an open-air area. But atmospheric conditions can play an important role in manure gas distribution.
That’s what investigators believe occurred to Mike Biadasz, an Amherst, Wisc., area farmer who died of acute exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas while agitating an outdoor manure lagoon on his family’s farm. A perfect storm of weather conditions – clear skies, no wind, heavy fog – caused the gases released during manure agitation to pool low to the ground, leading to the 29-year-old’s death.
In light of the tragedy, University of Wisconsin Extension held a manure gas safety webinar in early September to raise awareness of manure gases and update farmers about resources available to them. A recording of the presentation is available at Extension’s Agricultural Safety and Health website. During the 70-minute event, experts outlined the basics of manure gases, safety and monitoring recommendations, plus solutions to keep workers and livestock safe.
University of Wisconsin Extension is continuing its educational outreach by offering a workshop aimed at developing safety plans for manure storage and handling systems. It’s scheduled for Feb. 21 in Green Bay, Wisc., just prior to the 2017 Midwest Manure Summit.
While farming accidents are devastating to all involved, it’s important to learn from them.
The Biadasz family recognizes this. As a result of their son and brother’s death, they have opened a memorial fund in Mike’s name. The Mike Biadasz Farm Safety and Education Memorial Fund hopes to raise awareness and educate people about farm safety, including the dangers of manure gas. The fund, administered through the Community Foundation of Central Wisconsin, has received more than $40,000 in donations.
Please keep safety in mind as we head into 2017. Be careful out there.
November 30, 2016, Lethbridge, Alta – The 2017 Manure Management Update is coming up on January 16, 2017, at the Lethbridge Lodge.
This one-day event will have a wide range of topics such as: public trust, social license and sustainability; livestock manure impacts on groundwater quality in Alberta; agricultural research; and, manure tracker.
Early registration fee is $60/person and the deadline to register for the rate is January 6. After January 6, the late registration fee is $75/person. The registration fee includes lunch, refreshments and GST.
To register, contact the Ag-Info Centre Registration Desk at 1-800-387-6030.
For more information on the conference, call Lynda Miedema, nutrient management specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, 403-329-1212 ext. 222, or go to http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/EFE.nsf/all/efe6548.
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Iowa Manure Calibration & Distribution Field DayFri Jun 02, 2017 @ 1:00PM - 05:00PM
World Pork Expo 2017Wed Jun 07, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Manure Storage & Handling Safety WorkshopMon Jun 12, 2017 @ 6:00PM - 09:00PM
Anaerobic Digester Operator Training CourseTue Jun 13, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
AgSource Laboratories Ice Cream SocialWed Jun 14, 2017 @ 2:00PM - 04:00PM
Iowa Manure Calibration & Distribution Field DayFri Jun 23, 2017 @ 1:00PM - 05:00PM