On Friday nights, when most people would hit the pub or have a nice dinner, I teach dance to children ages five to eight. In a recent class on a warm evening, I cracked a window open in the studio. I heard a child exclaim, “Something smells!” When I told them, “That’s manure spreading,” naturally, there were a few giggles and high-pitched “Ews!” But to my delight, some of the kids (even the extremely young ones) already knew about spreading, and joined me in lecturing about the importance of manure. It was fantastic to see children as young as six grasp (and teach) the concepts of farmers being crucial to our lives.
Of course, we live in a community driven (and highly influenced) by agriculture, with our town slogan being “Ontario’s garden.” This helps contextualize not just things like the smell of manure, but also the economy of agriculture, what’s driving prices in which direction, the role of farm workers and, of course, farm safety. By contrast, I was 19 the first time I smelled manure spreading in earnest. I had no idea about the nuances of fall spreading (long, arduous) versus spring spreading (stressfully quick – in fact, your spring spreading might be done by the time you read this), the merits of solid versus liquid manures, different storage solutions, etc.
Despite the highly universal benefits of manure, there is nuance. That’s why we ensure in our yearly planning that we dedicate themes to both liquid and solid manure.
There’s also nuances to the application itself – over- and under-applying can happen so easily, and what constitutes over- and under-applying can vary depending on the crop (as is evidenced by a recent USDA study outlined in our news section on Page 6).
Similarly, creating a magazine also requires balance. We work to ensure we provide a mix of big-picture, research-based content (Richard Kamchen’s feature on Page 18 explores a new model that could predict emissions based on volatile solid output from dairy cows), along with content that is more (no pun intended) applicable in the immediacy. Jeff Tribe’s feature that explores nutrient uptake specific to alfalfa and hay grass is a good, example of that (see Page 10); likewise, Ronda Payne’s feature on soil sampling (Page 15) dives into not only how to sample soil before applying solids, but also why certain steps are crucial, and what new things we’re learning about soil sampling. We also have some practical knowledge on Page 8 in James Careless’ piece on temporary storage – all the nuances to take into consideration when stockpiling solids during the coming summer months.
If I were to explain all those concepts to my school-aged students, surely a few would lose interest. But knowledge has to start somewhere, and the fact that we can teach future generations the basic benefits of manure should make us all feel a little better about the future. •