With farms, woods, wildlife and fresh air, rural residents cherish the charm and beauty of the countryside. Many people move from cities seeking peace and a pristine environment in the country.Most people understand that a rural community includes farmers and that farming is a business. Ontario's agriculture and food sector employs 760,000 people and contributes more than $35 billion to the province's economy every year. This means that certain activities take place according to a production schedule; and some affect residents living close to farms. In almost all cases, farmers and their rural neighbours get along well together. However, there are some exceptions.For the year of 2015- 2016 the ministry received 107 complaints related to farm practices. Of these, 45 (40 percent) were about odour, while the others were mainly about noise (26 percent), flies (19 percent) and municipal by-laws (nine percent).Odour complaints are generally related to: Farmers spreading manure on fields Fans ventilating livestock barns Manure piles Mushroom farms To manage conflict about farm practices, the Ontario government enacted the Farming and Food Production Protection Act (FFPPA). This act establishes the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board (NFPPB) to determine "normal farm practices". When a person complains about odour or other nuisance from a particular farming practice, the board has the authority to hear the case and decide whether the practice is a "normal farm practice". If it is, the farmer is protected from any legal action regarding that practice.When people make complaints about farm practices, a regional agricultural engineer or environmental specialist from OMAFRA's Environmental Management Branch works with all parties involved to resolve the conflict. The board requires that any complaint go through this conflict resolution process before it comes to a hearing.Each year, through the conflict resolution process, OMAFRA staff have resolved the vast majority of complaints. In 2015-16, only twelve of the 107 cases resulted in hearings before the board. Of these, only two were odour cases involving multiple nuisances such as noise, dust and flies. Thus, while odours remain the biggest cause of complaints about farm practices, OMAFRA staff working through the conflict resolution process has proved very effective in dealing with them.
February 12, 2018, Greenwich, N¥ – As winter manure spreading regulations have tightened over the years, dairy farmers must consider ways to expand manure storage, especially those whose herds are growing. About 90 people turned out recently for “Managing Dairy Manure Systems: Sharing Experiences of Farmers and Engineers,” a program put on by Washington County Extension. They learned the pros and cons of different practices such as hauling, satellite lagoons, pumps and draglines, and how to implement such systems. READ MORE
January 19, 2018, Holland, MN – The Pipestone County Board of Adjustments, over the objections of a handful of residents, approved a variance allowing a local farm to build a feedlot located less than a mile from the city limits of Holland. A variance was required because the county’s zoning ordinance prohibits new feedlots or expansions of existing feedlots within one mile of “the corporate limits of any incorporated community.” The proposed location is 220 feet short of the required mile. READ MORE
December 8, 2017, Madison, WI – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources could adopt regional restrictions on manure spreading to help protect drinking water. Fifteen counties with bedrock consisting of Silurian dolomite and shallow topsoil are targeted: Brown, Calumet, Dodge, Door, Fond du Lac, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha. New restrictions would affect the time and place where manure can be added on cropland. Areas with bedrock depth of two feet or less would not be able to have manure – liquid or solid – added. READ MORE
November 10, 2017, Kewaunee, WI – The Kewaunee County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance regulating manure irrigation at its Nov. 7 meeting. The Chapter 37 Agricultural Waste and Process Wastewater Irrigation Ordinance allows low pressure-drip irrigation at a height no greater than 18 inches to apply nutrients during the growing season. The vote was 19-0 with one supervisor excused. READ MORE
September 29, 2017, Bailey’s Harbor, WI – In a 3-2 vote, the Door County Land Conservation Committee decided to forward a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), voicing support for the karst-targeted changes to NR 151, the state’s manure-handling rule, but also asking for clarification on the cost-sharing aspect of the new rules. Two farmers on the committee voted against the committee sending a letter of support after hearing from many farmers who believe they will lose about 30 percent of their cropland for spreading manure under the proposed rules. READ MORE
The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced that up to $250,000 of funding is available in Oregon for eligible individuals, local and state governments, non-governmental organizations, and tribes through the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program.
The state Department of Natural Resources is working with counties and farms in eastern Wisconsin to enforce new restrictions on manure spreading that took effect last year.
A much-debated farm pollution regulation is set to take wider effect soon in Maryland, stirring growing anxiety among farmers and environmentalists alike. Those concerns could put the rule on hold next year.The state's Phosphorus Management Tool rule, adopted in 2015, aims to reduce the risk of polluted farm runoff by limiting how much manure farmers can use to fertilize certain fields.Only about 100 farms have been affected so far, as the restrictions are being slowly phased in through 2022. But the number of farms that must comply with the rule is set to jump significantly in 2019. | For the full story, CLICK HERE.
Iowa farmers identified potential regulation as a top concern when considering water quality practices, according to a Center for Rural Affairs report recently released.Catching Waves: Farmers Gauge Risk to Advance Water Quality In Iowa, examines perceived production and social risks to adopting water quality improvement practices in Iowa."Water quality is a contentious issue in Iowa," said Katie Rock, policy associate at the Center, and author of the report. "Continued high nitrogen, phosphorous, bacteria, and sediment levels in surface waters threaten public health and outdoor recreation."The report breaks down data from a 2017 survey by the Center for Rural Affairs that polled Iowa farmers. Responding to the survey were 52 farmers representing 41 of the state's 90 counties.Results show weather and shifting climatic patterns is a top concern are the largest perceived threat to farmers' operations. Respondents identified agricultural consolidation, fluctuating commodity prices, and nutrient and soil loss as other top concerns.A majority of farmers reported they do not feel social pressure to install additional conservation practices. Beyond potential regulation, those who reported feeling this pressure identified soil health, nutrient retention, and cost savings as top reasons for new practice adoption."As Iowa continues to expand its watershed approach to water quality, understanding the needs, risks, and barriers farmers face will be critical," said Rock.These findings can help guide water quality efforts by researchers, farmers, watershed organizations, and government officials. The Center for Rural Affairs is dedicated to facilitating research-based solutions that elevate rural communities and people.For more information, and to view the report, visit cfra.org/publications/CatchingWaves.
Des Moines, IA – The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recently learned that a project to allow farmers to submit manure management plans online won an award in the 2018 national Government Experience Awards. The project was recognized in the Government-to-Business Experience category, one of six categories acknowledging how all levels of government are working to improve citizens’ interactions with their government. Historically, about 7,000 Iowa farmers had to fill out paper forms, drive miles to get them signed and leave a copy of the manure management plan at the county courthouse, and then submit the signed forms to DNR. “Our goal was to cut the time and effort it takes for farmers to submit annual plans, while maintaining the information we need,” said Bill Ehm, head of DNR’s environmental division. “Now, instead of days, they can use their smart phone to file the plan and pay fees online in minutes. That’s a tremendous savings for all involved. “The online process makes everyone’s lives easier: the producers, and DNR and county staff,” he added. “It should also be helpful for records.” The awards are presented by the Center for Digital Government, a national research and advisory institute focused on information technology policy and best practices in state and local government. California, Maryland, Texas and Utah also won in the State Government-to-Business focus area. Learn more about the eMMP, including how to submit one and the stakeholders involved in the project at www.iowadnr.gov/emmp.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that it has awarded $1,164,612 to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) to improve the health of Delaware's rivers and streams."This grant highlights the power of state and federal governments working in partnership to protect the natural environment," said EPA regional administrator, Cosmo Servidio. "Providing these funds directly to Delaware empowers the state to address its unique and critical environmental challenges.""Over the years, there has been vast improvement in the water quality in Delaware, but challenges still persist," said Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control secretary, Shawn M. Garvin. "DNREC appreciates the ongoing partnership and funding support from EPA. This grant will support investments in cover crops, nutrient management, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), stormwater retrofits, and tree planting projects that will enhance and improve water quality statewide."The funding is provided under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, which authorizes EPA to provide grants to states to implement nonpoint source pollution control programs. It will support Delaware's nonpoint source management program, focusing on watersheds with water quality impairments caused by polluted runoff. These nonpoint source control projects include a variety of structural and non-structural best management practices, monitoring, and technology demonstrations. The funding will also support outreach activities to educate the public about nonpoint source pollution.Nonpoint source pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away pollutants, depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and ground water. Sources of nonpoint source pollution include urban runoff, agricultural runoff, and changes to natural stream channels.Congress enacted Section 319 of the Clean Water Act in 1987, establishing a national program to control nonpoint sources of water pollution. Section 319 enables EPA to provide states, territories, and tribes with guidance and grant funding to implement their nonpoint source programs and support local projects to improve water quality.Since 2005, this work by states has restored more than 550 impaired waterbodies nationally, which includes more than 200,000 acres of lakes and more than 10,500 miles of rivers and streams. Hundreds of additional projects are currently underway across the country.Learn more about successful nonpoint source projects at https://www.epa.gov/nps/nonpoint-source-success-stories.
Washington, DC – As North Carolina communities grapple with the fallout from flooding during Hurricane Florence, community groups and an allied national coalition filed a legal complaint in federal court Sept. 28, challenging a Trump administration policy that exempts animal feeding operations from having to report emissions under a federal emergency planning and right-to-know law. “The full extent of the damage to our communities is still unknown. But one thing’s clear – we need better protections for communities neighboring these operations,” said Devon Hall, executive director of the Duplin County, NC-based Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH). Duplin County, a hub of industrial pig operations, was among the hardest hit by Hurricane Florence. “Eliminating this exemption is a simple way to help make sure my neighbors and I are better protected.” At the heart of the matter are two environmental laws – the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). Both require reporting of releases of hazardous substances that meet or exceed reportable quantities within a 24-hour period in order for federal, state, and local officials to evaluate the need for an emergency response to mitigate the effects of a release to the community. Back in December 2008, the EPA published a final rule that exempted all farms from reporting hazardous substance air releases from animal waste under CERCLA. Only large CAFOs were subject to EPCRA reporting. Several citizen groups challenged the validity of the final rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals and, in April 2017, the court vacated the final rule. In March 2018, the Consolidated Appropriations Act (Omnibus Bill) was signed into law, a section of which – known as the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act (FARM Act) – amended CERCLA to exempt air emissions from animal waste at a farm from reporting under CERCLA. Accordingly, on August 1, 2018, EPA published a final rule revising the CERCLA reporting regulations to incorporate the FARM Act’s amendments to CERCLA. Based on the criteria for EPCRA release reporting, the EPA maintains that air emissions from animal waste at farms do not need to be reported under EPCRA. REACH and Sound Rivers are being represented by the nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice and are joined by Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Food Safety, Don’t Waste Arizona, Environmental Integrity Project, Food & Water Watch, Humane Society of the United States, Sierra Club, and Waterkeeper Alliance in the complaint. A copy of the complaint can be found here.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has applauded a recent U.S. District Court after it issued an injunction affecting Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi to prevent enforcement of the Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. Last month, Attorney General Paxton and his counterparts from Louisiana and Mississippi filed a motion asking the court to expedite their request for an injunction. The legal action was necessary after a district court in South Carolina overturned President Trump’s effort to delay the WOTUS rule so that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could prepare a replacement rule. While district courts in North Dakota and Georgia enjoined WOTUS in 24 states, the rule remained in effect in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and other states not covered by the two injunctions. “Today’s district court ruling is a win for property owners in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, sparing them from the … WOTUS rule that would allow EPA regulation of ponds, streams and puddles on private land,” Attorney General Paxton said. “By restoring principles of federalism to this area of law, the ruling is an even bigger win for the Constitution and the fundamental liberties it protects.” In 2015, Attorney General Paxton was part of a multi-state coalition lawsuit that won a nationwide stay against WOTUS in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, preventing the federal government from taking control of ponds, streams and puddles of Texas property owners. One of President Trump’s first actions in office was an executive order directing the EPA to begin the process of eliminating WOTUS. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that cases litigating the Clean Water Act should be heard by federal district courts. View a copy of the injunction here.
January 5, 2018, Port Reyes, CA – The lawsuit against the Point Reyes National Seashore has stalled three park ranchers hoping to implement carbon sequestration practices to combat climate change. The practices range from the reduced tilling of grazing lands to the restoration of riparian areas, but a condition in the suit that prohibits new or expanded uses on ranchlands managed by the seashore could prevent the ranchers from adopting them. READ MORE
November 28, 2017, Washington, DC – On November 22, 2017 – in response to a request from the Environmental Protection Agency – the DC Circuit Court of Appeals extended the deadline for farmers to report air releases of hazardous substances from animal waste at livestock operations until January 22, 2018. The decision postponed the effective date of the court’s April 2017 decision vacating an EPA rule that exempted these farms from certain statutory reporting obligations. “EPA is committed to providing America’s farmers and ranchers – people committed to conserving the land and the environment- the clarity needed in meeting their reporting obligations required by law,” said Scott Pruitt, EPA administrator. The EPA sought this additional time in order to provide compliance assistance to farmers, update its guidance, and develop a more-streamlined reporting form. With the court’s decision, farmers are not required to report emissions from animal waste at these facilities until after the court issues its mandate, expected no sooner than January 22, 2018. On April 11, 2017, the DC Circuit Court vacated an EPA rule finalized on December 18, 2008, that exempted most farms from certain release reporting requirements in two statutes, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). In response to a request from the EPA, the DC Circuit Court extended the effective date of its decision to vacate the 2008 rule to November 15, 2017. In response to a second request from the current administration EPA, the DC Circuit Court further extended that date to January 22, 2018. As such, farmers now do not need to report emissions under CERCLA until January 22, 2018 at the earliest when the D.C. Circuit Court is expected to issue its mandate. The EPA has prepared guidance that includes links to resources that farmers can consider when calculating emissions for specific species of livestock. To view EPA’s guidance and Frequently Asked Questions on reporting air emissions from animal waste: https://www.epa.gov/epcra/cercla-and-epcra-reporting-requirements-air-releases-hazardous-substances-animal-waste-farms.
As I write this, only a few days are left before livestock operations need to submit their air emissions data to the federal government under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). All poultry and livestock facilities that are likely to emit more than 100 pounds of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide in a 24-hour period are required to report their initial continuous release notification to the National Response Center.
November 10, 2017, Washington, DC – A House Subcommittee on the Environment held a hearing recently on a bipartisan bill to reduce the risk of farmers from citizen-led lawsuits. The Farm Regulatory Certainty Act has more than 60 co-sponsors, and was spearheaded by Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., and Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif. Newhouse, a former Washington ag director, told the subcommittee about a Washington state dairy farmer who was operating under state nutrient management plans, but entered into a consent decree with EPA. Then a third party got records on the dairy and it was sued under an environmental act. READ MORE
It’s a beautiful spring day as you drive along a country road. The sun is out and your windows are rolled down when suddenly an offensive odor hits you right in the nostrils. Someone hit a skunk. What is it about this smell that makes it so offensive? Does this have any relation to the odor of livestock manure?
Beef and dairy farmers around the world are looking for ways to reduce methane emissions in their herds and cut greenhouse gas emissions – a global priority. To help meet this goal, researchers from Canada and Australia teamed-up for a three-year study to find the best feeding practices that reduce methane emissions while supporting profitable dairy and beef cattle production.
A national manure management emergency was recently averted in the United States with the passage in March of the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act, thwarting attempts by some environmental groups to categorize farms on the same plane as heavy industry as it relates to potential toxic air emissions.
Regina, Sask – Despite their reputation, flatulent cows aren’t capable of destroying the world, an environmental politics professor argues in a forthcoming research paper. But still, livestock are saddled with an outsized share of the blame for climate change. And if that misunderstanding persists, and pushes policymakers to force a societal shift from meat-eating, it could lead to disaster, says Ryan Katz-Rosene at the University of Ottawa’s school of political studies. READ MORE
A week spent in a feedyard pen is helping researchers gain a better understanding of greenhouse gas emissions. Their goal is to improve the national inventory of greenhouse gases and determine potential mitigation measures.Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service are collaborating to analyze nitrous oxide and methane emissions from an area feedyard pen.Dr. Ken Casey, AgriLife Research air quality engineer in Amarillo, and Dr. David Parker and Dr. Heidi Waldrip, USDA-ARS livestock nutrient management researchers at Bushland, spent the better part of a week sitting inside a feedyard pen just vacated by cattle.The project is funded by USDA-ARS and AgriLife Research, with instrumentation used in the study partly supported by the Texas Cattle Feeders Association.Using six automated chambers, more than 575 automated flux measurements were taken, as were 60 manual flux measurements from separate static chambers, to help monitor nitrous oxide and methane gas emissions. Halfway through the experiment, a half-inch of water was applied to the pen surface within the measurement chamber bases to simulate a rainfall."We're looking to understand better what controls nitrous oxide and methane coming off feedlot pen surfaces," Casey said. "We're interested in the emissions of these gases because of their contribution to climate change. We want to improve the national emissions inventories as they pertain to greenhouse gases from feedyards in the Texas High Plains."Secondly, we are also very interested in obtaining a better mechanistic understanding of the evolution of these gases from the pen surfaces. What controls the release of these gases? If we are able to gain a better understanding of that, then we will potentially be able to provide advice to the industry about mitigation practices when it comes to pen management."Casey said their testing demonstrated areas of the pen with shallower manure packs on the surface primarily emitted nitrous oxide, while two chambers sitting over deeper manure where the pen drain was located emitted almost no nitrous oxide, but were emitting methane."We are trying to understand the interplay of those two gases, because the processes that are producing them are related," he said.The different factors that influence the creation and release of the gases include temperature, moisture content and the amount of manure on the pen surface, Casey said."By understanding how those factors play together in the production of those gases, we can develop a greater understanding and potentially develop mitigation strategies," he said."However, it's complicated, because a strategy that reduces one emission may in fact increase the other. So our understanding of the production of these gases and the environmental factors that influence them are important."During the study, gas samples were collected twice a day from the static chambers and then taken to Casey's air quality lab to be analyzed on a gas chromatograph. Six automated chambers took measurements each hour, around the clock. The automated chambers were linked through a multiplexer to automated nitrous oxide and methane analyzers."We know emissions are influenced by temperature, and by taking diurnal measurements, we can understand the variability throughout the day and night, as well as that of the effects of moisture."The week of measurements is only part of ongoing research being conducted by Casey and Parker. Casey said the results will be reported to the industry, as well as in various journals along the way, and will be used for extended air quality research.Parker said their research is also relevant to manure quality."Not only is this research important for greenhouse gas emissions, but through this and ongoing laboratory studies, we are learning more about nutrient transformations and water losses from the feedyard surface," he said.
February 9, 2018, Washington, DC – The National Pork Producers Council recently asked Congress for a legislative fix to a federal emergency response law that now requires farmers to report emissions from the natural breakdown of manure to the U.S. Coast Guard. Testifying on behalf of NPPC, Dr. Howard Hill told members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that livestock producers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency never believed routine agricultural emissions from manure constituted the type of emergency or crisis the law was intended to address. Last April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a 2008 EPA rule that exempted farmers from reporting routine farm emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). CERCLA is mainly used to clean hazardous waste, and it and EPCRA include provisions that require entities to report on the release of various substances over certain thresholds. The appeals court ruling will force “tens of thousands of livestock farmers to figure out how to estimate and report their emissions,” testified Hill, a veterinarian and pork producer from Cambridge, Iowa, and past president of NPPC. (More than 100,000 livestock farmers likely will need to file emissions reports by a May 1 deadline.) He pointed out that while the pork industry is prepared to comply with CERCLA and EPCRA, EPA, the U.S. Coast Guard – which takes the emissions reports – and state and local emergency response authorities have said they don’t want or need the information, which could interfere with their legitimate emergency functions. Hill also told the committee that pork producers are committed to responsibly managing their animals and the manure they produce to protect water and air quality and to maximizing manure’s benefit and value as a source of nutrients for the crops they grow. He said the pork industry, which has worked cooperatively with environmental regulators at the state and federal levels, supports federal environmental policies that: give producers performance expectations that have a high probability of resulting in meaningful environmental improvements; are practical and affordable; and provide producers a realistic amount of time to adapt measures and associated systems to their operations so they can continue to be profitable and successful.
Mar. 8, 2013 - Manure spills happen for a range of reasons—a manure spreader rolls over, a hose breaks, a storage pond overflows after a relentless downpour. Whatever the cause, these events are such a threat to the environment that states have emergency teams to deal with the hazard. Typically, the responders build dams to contain the spill and then pump out the contaminated water. Although cleanup efforts start as quickly as possible, a fish kill in a nearby stream is often the first evidence that a spill has taken place. Another problem is that sediments in the contaminated water channel can capture phosphorus from the manure and release the nutrient back into the water—sometimes for months on end—at levels exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) criteria. But there were few details available about the links between manure spills and phosphorus until Agricultural Research Service soil scientist Doug Smith and doctoral candidate Shalamar Armstrong began to study the issue. Smith, who works at the ARS National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory in West Lafayette, Indiana, was Armstrong's technical advisor throughout the study. ARS soil scientist Chi-hua Huang, also in West Lafayette, and soil scientist April Leytem, who works at the ARS Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Laboratory in Kimberly, Idaho, were also part of the team. Sizing Up Sediments Armstrong collected sediments from two drainage ditches in the Cedar Creek subwatershed of the St. Joseph River Watershed in northeast Indiana. The land surrounding each ditch was primarily used for row cropping. Three sampling locations were selected so that the study would include sediments from drainage areas that ranged from 768 acres to 10,625 acres. This methodology also ensured that the scientists would be able to assess the effects of different particle size distributions and physiochemical properties on phosphorus absorption. The West Lafayette team added the sediments to an artificial water channel called a "fluvarium" and used swine manure minimally diluted with water to create their own worst-case manure "spill." Then, after 24 hours, they cleaned it up using standard operating protocols for remediating contaminated spill sites. The researchers found the spill simulation initially resulted in an average water column dissolved phosphorus concentration of 5.57 milligrams per liter. The concentrations dropped to between 0.19 and 0.21 milligrams per liter 24 hours later, but they still exceeded EPA standards for rivers, streams, and drainage ditches in the Cedar Creek subwatershed. The scientists also documented that after the spill, the channel sediments were able to capture significant amounts of phosphorus from the water, with adsorption rates ranging from 8.9 to 16.7 milligrams per square meter of sediment per hour. The finest clay loam sediments from the upstream channel sites adsorbed the greatest levels. "These clay loam sediments have a larger surface area available for the chemical reactions that bind the phosphorus to the sediments," Smith explains. "These sediments also have the highest levels of iron, aluminum, and organic carbon, all of which enhance the ability of the sediments to bind phosphorus." However, after the simulated spill cleanup, all the sediments released phosphorus back into the water at rates that caused the phosphorus level in the ditch water to exceed EPA's maximum level by at least 67 percent. Even though the fine-textured clay loam sediments adsorbed the highest levels of phosphorus, the course-textured sandy sediments from the largest drainage areas released the most phosphorus back into the water after cleanup was complete. "These results strongly suggested that the current approaches to remediating manure spills need improvement," Smith says. An Answer in Alum Fortunately, the team had some ideas about where to start looking for improvements. Earlier studies showed that adding alum to poultry litter, swine manure, and other agricultural byproducts substantially mitigates phosphorus release. So they ran a series of tests to see how well alum amendments could stop, or at least slow, the release of phosphorus deposited in channel sediments after manure spills. The researchers added different levels of an alum-calcium carbonate mix to the same sediments they tested in the first study. The calcium carbonate was included to prevent the acidic alum from significantly increasing the water's acidity. They observed that amending the contaminated sediments with 1.6 milligrams of alum-calcium carbonate per gram of sediment suppressed phosphorus release by 92 percent in sandy sediments and by 72 percent in clay loam and loamy sand sediments. Higher amendment levels suppressed phosphorus release in all three soil types by up to 100 percent. In general, greater rates of alum were needed to suppress phosphorus release from the clay loam sediments than from either the loamy sand or the sandy sediments. On average, clay loam sediments required 54 percent more alum to mitigate the release of phosphorus than sediments containing at least 60 percent sand. Adding calcium carbonate to the alum did not completely protect the water column from increased acidification. But water flowing over sediments amended with the alum-calcium carbonate mix was less acidic than water flowing over sediments amended solely with alum. Data from the study was used to develop models to predict the rate of alum application that would be needed to mitigate phosphorus release from contaminated sediments, based on sediment properties. "Our results demonstrated that alum can help sediments retain phosphorus after a manure spill," says Armstrong, who is now an assistant professor at Illinois State University. "We think it has potential for enhancing current manure spill remediation methods." Findings from both studies were published in the Journal of Environmental Quality in 2009 and the Journal of Environmental Monitoring in 2012. "These are the first studies that have examined in detail how manure spills affect in-stream phosphorus fate," adds Smith. This research is part of Water Availability and Watershed Management, an ARS national program (#211) described at www.nps.ars.usda.gov. "Measuring and Managing Impacts of Manure Spills" was published in the March 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
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