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Novel solid manure injection technology shows great promise


January 29, 2009
By Lukie Pieterse

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In 2001, work started at the University of Saskatchewan’s department of
agricultural and bioresource engineering to develop a prototype,
field-scale, precision manure applicator.

novel_1  
Researchers at the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) in Humboldt, Sask., have developed a solid manure injector system that is showing great promise. Submitted photo


 

In 2001, work started at the University of Saskatchewan’s department of agricultural and bioresource engineering to develop a prototype, field-scale, precision manure applicator. But it wouldn’t be injecting liquid manure, a fairly common practice among manure applicators; instead, this new technology was aimed at injecting solid and semi-solid manure.

Eventually, the project would be moved to the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) in Humboldt, Sask. for further development of the injection system. The aim of the research is to develop a commercially viable piece of equipment that can be used successfully by farmers. There have been technological challenges in the past to deal with solid manure injection. It’s hoped this research might bring an answer to that problem in the near future.

But why this interest in solid manure injection?

According to researchers involved in the project, solid manure injection technology promises to drastically reduce odors associated with traditional broadcasting methods. They are also looking at the potential of solid manure injection to reduce volatilization losses of nitrogen and losses of phosphorous and other nutrients due to run-off. By injecting the manure, the nutrients are locked into the soil, ready for use by plants.

The technology is also very versatile.

novel_2  
Researchers at the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) in Humboldt, Sask., have developed a solid manure injector system that is showing great promise. Submitted photo


 

“The system was designed to work with anything that can not be pumped,” says PAMI project leader Dr. Hubert Landry. “Typically we’ve been working with beef cattle manure but really, the product could come from any type of livestock production or even other by-products like municipal sludge.”

He adds that if the technology can be developed to the same level as existing liquid injection systems, it will mean potentially huge savings on transportation costs for farmers since liquid manure is much heavier to move than solid manure due to its high water content.

How does the solid manure injector work? The implement is basically a trailer with a large hopper containing the manure to be land applied, explains Dr. Landry. At the bottom of the hopper are four discharge screw conveyers. The screw conveyers move the manure to the rear of the machine where it falls into a transverse distribution conveyer for distribution along the width of application. From the transverse distribution conveyor, the manure is moved to coulter openers by flexible screw conveyors. The coulters open a trench into which the material is deposited and the trench is then closed. Although the term “injection” is used, and although a fair amount of force is used to move the manure towards it eventual exit point, Dr. Landry points out that it might be technically more correct to call it “sub-surface application” of the manure. In a nutshell, the machine makes six trenches, the manure is dropped into them and covered right away.

It’s the injection aspect of the applicator that makes it so novel, says Dr. Landry.

The equipment also brings uniformity of distribution plus good control of the rate of application of manure. “This is a great improvement over what is commercially available as far as equipment,” he says.

Meanwhile the research team is hard at work to test the machine under different scenarios and on different crops. Two years of studies have been completed so far.

One of the studies, started in 2007 and being conducted near Humboldt, involves the research team comparing a variety of manure treatments to an unfertilized check. According to Dr. Jeff Schoenau, a research scientist with the University of Saskatchewan’s department of soil science, the scientists are looking at three different rates of solid cattle manure plus three different application methods – injection, broadcast and incorporated. They are also examining broadcast only. The effect of the different rates, as well as placements and combinations, are being evaluated for their effects on crop yield, crop nutrient uptake, soil nutrient levels and distribution and nutrient runoff potential.

“We’re not seeing really much difference between the different placements of the manure in terms of effects on yield or whether it was broadcast, broadcast-incorporated or injected,” says Dr. Schoenau, adding this isn’t too surprising considering the cattle manure used in the study didn’t have a lot of readily available nutrients in it.

The research team did see some response in yield to the manure additions in both 2007 and 2008, but not a great effect from placement, Dr. Schoenau says. “We found our highest yields were when we combined urea fertilizer with the manure that was injected,” he says. “I think that can be attributed to the fact that the solid cattle manure has pretty low nitrogen availability in the year of application.”

Dr. Landry is upbeat about the future viability of the injection technology. “From a mechanical point of view, we would be fairly close to being able to go to market,” says Dr. Landry, adding the technology is not fully proven in the areas of agronomic and environmental benefits. “The market uptake is not under our control. We have to demonstrate the technology and generate enough interest to make sure that we have successful marketed uptake.”

The study still has one more season to go and a final report is expected in about a year.

Further information about the solid manure injector project can be obtained from Dr. Hubert Landry at 306.682.5033 or HLandry@pami.ca. Visit the PAMI website at www.pami.ca.


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