Manure Manager

Manure land application focus of new grant

June 23, 2010  by Manure Manager


Manure land application focus of new grant
Returning nutrients and organic matter to Texas Panhandle soils is the
focus of a new federal grant awarded to the Texas Cattle Feeders Association
and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, according to project leaders.

June 22, 2010, Amarillo,
TX – Returning nutrients and organic matter to Texas Panhandle soils is the
focus of a new federal grant awarded to the Texas Cattle Feeders Association
and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, according to project leaders.

Ben Weinheimer, TCFA vice
president, said the three-year grant will help protect water quality in
Panhandle streams and lakes. The project is designed to inform manure and
compost contractors, machinery operators and certified crop advisors of best
management practices for land application of feedyard manure and compost,
Weinheimer said.


The project is funded
through a Clean Water Act nonpoint source grant from the Texas State Soil and
Water Conservation Board
and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“This is a great
opportunity for TCFA and our members to work with manure and compost haulers
and landowners, who are an important part of the cattle feeding industry and
help to ensure the beneficial use of manure on the land,” he said.

Weinheimer and his project
co-leader, Dr. Brent Auvermann, AgriLife Extension agricultural engineer, will
develop a training curriculum in English and Spanish, establish demonstration
sites and host seminars and field days to help machinery operators.

The curriculum will teach
them how to calibrate spreader equipment so manure and compost are applied to
cropland according to recommended rates based on crop requirements and
water-quality protection, Auvermann said.

“In the Panhandle, we work
our soils pretty hard to achieve the levels of crop production that we’re able
to maintain year to year,” he said. “If it’s done right, manure application is
a tremendous way to boost soil health and productivity, including holding onto
that precious rainfall."

Weinheimer said he and
Brady Miller, TCFA regulatory manager, have spent a great deal of time and
effort during the past decade monitoring the nitrogen and phosphorus levels in
cropland owned and controlled by the association’s member feedyards.

“Through our Environmental
Services Program, we have established a strong database of information on soils
and manure, and assisted our members with managing nutrient applications,”
Miller said. “It’s much easier to explain the importance of good environmental
management practices when you have data and science in your hands.”

To document the importance
of good land-application practices, Weinheimer and Auvermann have enlisted the
help of an environmental soil scientist, Dr. Paul DeLaune, assistant professor
with Texas AgriLife Research in Vernon.

“Dr. DeLaune brings a
deep, research-based knowledge of soil fertility and soil chemistry to the
project,” Auvermann said. "He has been working with nutrient management plans,
phosphorus loading and water quality for over a decade."

An international
phosphorus workgroup has identified the lack of edge of field water quality
monitoring data as the single largest scientific and management gap for
addressing phosphorus loss, as well as pollutants, from land use, said DeLaune.

“Due to the lack of data,
many best management practices are not well quantified as to their impact on
water quality,” he said. “This project will allow us to address these regional
and national issues.”

Building on more than 10
years of collaborative environmental work on cattle feedyards, Weinheimer and
Auvermann decided to focus the project’s monitoring activities in the
Sweetwater Creek watershed in the eastern Panhandle, which was listed as
“impaired” on the state’s 2008 303( d )list.

The Texas Commission on
Environmental Quality
regularly monitors the condition of the state’s surface
waters, and assesses water quality, DeLaune said. Water bodies that do not meet
set surface water quality standards are classified as impaired and placed on
what is known as the 303( d ) list, referencing the federal Clean Water Act.

Auvermann said while the
major monitoring efforts will take place in and around Wheeler County, the
training programs will be delivered in all of the major cattle-feeding regions
of the Panhandle and South Plains.

“We’re focusing our data
collection in Sweetwater Creek, but the lessons we learn about land-application
practices ought to apply just about anywhere in this part of Texas,” he said.
“Given our climate and our declining aquifer, we’ve got to protect as many of
our surface-water resources as we can.”

“We’re challenged with
reducing bacteria to acceptable levels in over 270 creeks and rivers across
this state. Fortunately, not many of these impaired water bodies are here in
the Panhandle,” said Aubrey Russell, Texas State Soil and Water Conservation
member, who represents 49 soil and water conservation districts across 51
counties in the Panhandle.

“By partnering with the
Texas Cattle Feeders Association on this project, we believe we can protect the
quality of our local water resources while providing needed educational
programs to benefit all landowners who utilize feedyard manure and compost to
fertilize their crops and pastures,” Russell said.

Weinheimer said cattle
feeders have intently focused on environmental management at the feedyard level
for many years, and this project is the next logical step in TCFA’s
environmental management efforts.

“Our soils need what
manure and compost have to offer,” he said, “so we believe it’s the right time
to focus on the important role that land-application contractors and landowners
serve in the cattle-feeding industry.”


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