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Liquid manure application pilot initiative in Alberta


June 3, 2010
By Manure Manager

May 26, 2010, Edmonton, AB
– There is potential to increase the adoption of injecting/surface-banding
liquid manure from dairy operations in Alberta.

May 26, 2010, Edmonton, AB
– There is potential to increase the adoption of injecting/surface-banding
liquid manure from dairy operations in Alberta.

To that end, a four-year
pilot initiative aimed at increasing the amount of liquid dairy manure being
injected or applied through surface-banding application technology was launched
in the fall of 2008. This joint project among Alberta Agriculture and Rural
Development
, Red Deer County, Leduc County, the County of Wetaskiwin, and
Alberta Milk is aimed at increasing the adoption of liquid manure injection or
surface-banding application technology.

“The main reasons for
moving from broadcast liquid manure application to injection or surface-banding
are to reduce the amount of nitrogen lost from the manure being applied and to
reduce odor from liquid manure application,” says Stephanie Kosinski, forage
specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. “Initial 2009 plot
data analysis showed that injecting liquid dairy manure at a rate of 6000
gallons/acre increased barley yield from 3.1 to 5.01 tons/acre (dry weight)
compared to broadcasting and incorporation. This translated into a net economic
benefit of injection of $45.85/acre, based on an assumed market value of silage
at $35/ton in the pit and a cost premium for injection of $0.0035/gallon.”

In early 2009, as part of
this initiative, a survey of dairy producers and custom manure applicators was
conducted. The producer survey focused on general operation practices, as well
as specific manure management techniques.

Based on the survey
results, the average herd size was 119 head of milking and dry cows, and 52
percent of producers managed between 160 and 640 acres, with the largest
operations topping out at over 1200 acres. Of the land being managed by
dairies, most is seeded to annuals, with less than half being used as hay and
pasture.

“Dairy producers in the
targeted counties value knowing the nutrient content of their soils, with 82
percent soil sampling annually and 40 percent then developed nutrient
management plans, either on their own or with the aid of consultants and crop
advisors,” says Kosinski. “While this helps them make informed decisions about
where to apply manure and at what rates, in order to have the whole picture
producers also need to know the nutrient content of that manure they are
applying. Currently, only 10 percent sample their manure, but this number will
likely increase as the benefits of knowing exactly what is in that manure are
identified.

“Many of the participating
producers that broadcast their liquid manure have indicated their interest in
switching to injection/surface-banding. During the remainder of this project,
the barriers to adopting this technology will be addressed.”

In order to increase
knowledge and awareness about manure application techniques, three to four
small-plot demonstration sites will be established this spring, in addition to
three sites that were set-up last year. These sites will highlight the use of
different injection equipment.

The co-operating producers
will seed annual crops across these sites, and yield data will be collected.
Further economic analyses will be conducted to highlight the benefits of
injection in terms of yield and nutrient capture.

Field days will be held at
each of the demonstration sites to allow dairy producers to see the impact
injecting manure can have on crop growth and production, as well as to
demonstrate the types of equipment used.


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