Manure Manager

News Applications Research
Editorial: There’s something in the manure


November 8, 2022  by Bree Rody

Have you noticed that a “tech savvy” kid in 2022 is different than a “tech savvy” kid in 2000? When I was young, knowing how to code a simple website made you a computer genius. Now, the basic HTML I learned for extra credit in the seventh grade is taught to children as young as six. The same goes for elite athletes; just look at the performance of elite hockey and basketball prospects compared to their eighties counterparts. As a result, teachers and coaches need to keep up to ensure they’re always challenging students.

What does this have to do with manure? Well, manure is also changing, and the industry needs to keep up. This past summer, a team at the University of Minnesota undertook a project to ensure that manure “book values” – the approximate amounts of nutrients in manure – are several decades old. The team compared recent data from labs in the U.S. midwest and found that manure nutrient data has changed compared to previous book values. The university is now creating a manure nutrient database, ManureDB, to update those values.

It makes sense that manure nutrient models have changed over the years. Everything from diet and housing to storage and handling impacts the nutrients of manure. To better understand how current conditions affect manure the university and its laboratory partners compared the nutrient averages of beef, dairy, poultry and swine manure in liquid and solid forms. Some of the analysis results did differ from the previously published book values. There were changes noted in dairy manure and poultry manure in both liquid and solid forms, with some information yet to be factored into the analysis of swine manure, such as age or manure storage systems. With more work to be done, more knowledge will only make the manure industry – and agriculture in general – better.

Manure management is nutrient management, and those nutrients are important for the food we grow and the land on which it is grown. Understanding the current state of manure helps producers care for their land and the food which they produce better. After all, we’re talking about the big picture, here.

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With this issue focusing on liquid manure, we thought it was important to look at those “big picture” issues that come from liquid manure management. For example, staying fresh as a driver when it comes to transporting – and potentially cleaning up – liquid manure (page 8). We also have a feature on reducing methane emissions, which includes innovations on storing liquid manure (page 18). This issue also highlights forward thinkers in Vermont with a feature profiling the participants in the Vermont Phosphorus Innovation Challenge (page 12). And, we cover new research on the pesky Palmer amaranth weed, which is becoming a problem on fields, possibly through manure (page 22).

Keep focusing on the big picture and keep a flexible mindset. Manure literally isn’t what it used to be! •

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