Manure Manager

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Manure covers may mitigate global warming


December 17, 2009
By Manure Manager

December 15, 2009,



Columbus, Ohio
– Technology to mitigate odor and air quality concerns on livestock farms can
also be used for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while providing potential
income for farmers looking to trade carbon credits.

December 15, 2009,



Columbus, Ohio
– Technology to mitigate odor and air quality concerns on livestock farms can
also be used for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while providing potential
income for farmers looking to trade carbon credits.

Manure storage
covers, originally designed to control odors on dairy, swine and other
livestock facilities, can also capture greenhouse gases such as methane, which
is more harmful to the environment in terms of global warming effects than
carbon dioxide. The collected methane can be traded for carbon credits at
carbon trading markets, where the amount of gas measured is converted to its
carbon equivalent. The amount the carbon is worth is then paid back to the
farmer.

Lingying Zhao,
an Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer, said that farmers
don’t generally use manure covers because it’s too costly. But the carbon
credit programs and the loan support to use manure covers to mitigate climate
change are now available to allow farmers to obtain manure covers at a fraction
of the cost, or, if the farm is big enough, no cost at all.

“I see this as
an opportunity for farmers to use a technology that not only would improve
their on-farm situation, but also be profitable for them, as well as improve
the environment,” said Zhao, who also holds a research appointment with the
Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

Manure covers
originally started out as natural materials, such as straw, that were placed
over manure lagoons. But they weren’t impermeable to gas emissions and degraded
over time. Today’s manure covers are made out of impermeable, synthetic
materials that can last 10 or 15 years.

Zhao said that
research is finding manure covers are serving more purposes than just
controlling odors and reducing neighbor complaints. For one, they can capture
harmful greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide. Methane is
estimated to be 21 times as intense a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide, while
nitrous oxide is 300 times more intense.

The
greenhouses gases captured can then be put to environmentally friendly uses.
Methane, for example, could be used as a biogas.

In addition,
manure covers capture ammonia, increasing the value of manure used as a
fertilizer.

“Without a
manure cover, 36 percent to 90 percent of nitrogen is being lost to the
atmosphere as ammonia,” said Zhao.

Researchers
realize the value of manure covers, but providing quantifiable information for
farmers is still a work in progress. Zhao and her colleagues are leading a
research project to determine just how much methane, nitrous oxide and ammonia
manure covers can capture. They hope to develop a model that farmers can follow
that will enable them to estimate methane production throughout certain times
of the year for any given livestock operation.

In the
meantime, Zhao and her colleagues have been holding manure cover workshops
throughout Ohio to educate producers on manure covers and their benefits and
connect farmers to resources for trying manure covers on their own farm.

One
organization, Environmental Credit Corporation (http://www.envcc.com), has been leading
efforts to establish cost-effective, long-term projects with farmers that
reduce greenhouse gases. One of those projects has been to provide manure
covers at no cost to the farmer, and a prime example of their success has been
with Miedema Dairy in Circleville, Ohio. The dairy farm runs the first lagoon
cover program in the state, capturing methane, which is then measured and
registered annually as carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange.

There are also
funding opportunities for manure covers offered through the Natural Resource
Conservation Service as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
Based on the conservation measures outlined in the 2008 Farm Bill, 60 percent
of the funds to support EQIP will be used for livestock waste management.


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