Environment
Loudonville, OH — Holmes and Ashland Soil and Water Conservation Districts are hosting a meeting on August 30 at 6 p.m. at the Ohio Theater (156 N. Water St., Loudonville) to provide information and updates about winter manure management.

Attendees will learn the latest information from the Ohio Department of Agriculture regarding changes to nutrient management regulations.

In order to provide tools to deal with manure management, Rob Clendening with the Knox County Farm Bureau/SWCD will give a presentation about the OnMrk app for nutrient tracking and record keeping.

Likewise, Dr. Libby Dayton will demonstrate the OnField! app, which explains the new Phosphorus Risk Index and what it means to producers. These tools will help farmers be proactive and informed about the risks associated with nutrient management.

Pizza and drinks will be provided at no cost. Pop and popcorn will be available for purchase at the theater. RSVP to this free event by Aug. 27 by calling Ashland SWCD at 419-281-7645. Any questions can be directed to Ashland SWCD or Holmes SWCD at 330-674-2811, ext. 3.

Published in State
With water quality in the Chesapeake Bay suffering from excess nutrients and fish populations in rivers such as the Susquehanna experiencing gender skewing and other reproductive abnormalities, understanding how to minimize runoff of both nutrients and endocrine-disrupting compounds from farm fields after manure applications is a critical objective for agriculture.
Published in Other
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.
Published in Beef
It is often the case that great partnerships are started through the involvement of a mutual friend. That was certainly the situation with the El Paso Zoo and New Green Organics, both located in Vinton, Texas. The pair has formed a relationship that has given birth to something called Zoo Doo.
Published in Compost
Urban encroachment on traditional farmland is becoming a big problem. Farmers contend they should be allowed to conduct business as usual because they were first in the neighborhood while nearby homeowners complain that farm odors are wafting into their family barbecues and must stop.
Published in Compost
Nitrogen pollution flowing out of Iowa to the Gulf of Mexico has grown by close to 50 percent over nearly two decades, a new report shows, despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent to stem nutrients entering the state's waterways.

A University of Iowa study shows the state's contribution to the Gulf dead zone spiked 47 percent to 618 million pounds in 2016, based on five-year running annual averages. | READ MORE
Published in News
Madison, WI - New rule revisions designed to reduce manure groundwater contamination, specifically in the northeast section of the state, took effect July 1.

The changes, under the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' ch. NR 151, Wis. Adm. Code, relate to Silurian bedrock, which are areas where the soil depth to bedrock is shallow and the bedrock may be fractured.

"The main purpose of this targeted performance standards is to reduce the risk for contamination in groundwater from manure applications on shallow bedrock soils," said Mary Anne Lowndes, DNR Watershed Management Section chief.

Lowndes said Silurian bedrock soils identified in the rule revisions are dolomite bedrock with a depth of 20 feet or less. The rule targets an area in the state that may include portions of Brown, Calumet, Dodge, Door, Fond du Lac, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Sheboygan, Walworth, Washington, and Waukesha counties.

"Within a specified area, the rule sets forth manure spreading rates and practices that vary according to the soil depth and texture," said Lowndes. "For Silurian bedrock, the most restrictive practices apply to those limited areas with the highest risk for pathogen delivery, zero to five feet in depth, and less restrictive requirements apply in areas with five to 20 feet to bedrock."

Lowndes added that Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in the Silurian bedrock areas will be required to comply with the standards in the new rule, when it is incorporated into their permit under the Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination System (WPDES), and a cross reference to the targeted performance standard language has also been added to ch. NR 243, Wis. Adm. Code., which applies to CAFOs subject to WPDES permitting. Non-permitted farms in Silurian bedrock areas will also be required to comply with the standards in the rule.

Lowndes added the DNR has worked with the University of Wisconsin Department of Soil Science to offer a Silurian bedrock map (exit DNR) tool that can be used to identify areas where the bedrock soil depth is less than 20 feet, and that the department is working with the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection and county land conservation departments on how best to implement the new rules.

The new rule is based on a long-term effort by the department to seek public input on changes to NR 151, including conducting studies, public meetings and hearings and hosting a technical advisory committee and Groundwater Collaboration Workgroup that met between 2015-2017.
Published in State
A Vancouver college is looking for new ways to manage manure in British Columbia's Fraser Valley.

Working with Muddy River Technologies of Delta, B.C., researchers at Langara College are seeking a cost effective way to prevent soil degradation and water contamination by removing phosphorus, nitrogen and other byproducts from animal manure.

The Fraser Valley is home to about 500 dairies, and the high amounts of slurry cause environmental and economic problems. Farmers do not have enough land to dispose of it, and they cannot expand because of the limitations placed on them by excess manure, said Langara researcher Kelly Sveinson.

This spring the college received $90,000 from the B.C. Innovation Council Ignite Award to support the project involving Sveinson, chemist Todd Stuckless and Rob Stephenson, chief technical officer of Muddy River Technologies, which works on water and waste treatments.

The project involves removing phosphates from manure using an electrochemical process similar to that used in environmental cleanups. The second step is to use a biochar carbon filter to capture ammonia that can be released as nitrogen. Ultimately those products could go back on the land as fertilizer. | READ MORE
Published in News
Kewaunee County, WI - Whether it is soil erosion or water quality that is burning you up inside. Identifying the county's greatest environmental concerns and how to fix them. Might hang on a few mouse clicks.

Kewaunee County's Land and Water Conservation Department is turning to an online questionnaire for the first time, and it needs your help. Options like increased animal waste management stand a chance at being popular picks. And that is because they can influence more than one category. | READ MORE
Published in News
New York - The state has made $17 million available to protect and conserve critical soil and water resources on farms across New York.

Grants provided through the Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control Program will help farmers address water quality challenges in priority watersheds by supporting environmental planning and the best management practices.

The program provides grants to County Soil and Water Conservation Districts on behalf of farmers statewide. The funding will assist farms with manure storage facilities for better nutrient management, with buffer strips to prevent nutrient runoff, and with cover crops to enhance soil health. | READ MORE
Published in News
The foul scent of manure is a fact of life in the country. Sometimes it smells like home. Other times the stink is bad enough to wrinkle your nose as you urgently roll up the car windows.

Odor management rules are among the many regulations defining how animal farmers handle never ending piles of manure or the way it is spread on fields for fertilizer.

The spread of manure by Pennsylvania farmers is regulated to keep pollutants from seeping into the air and waterways.

A bill moving quickly through the state Legislature would remove an advisory panel with input on those regulations, the Nutrient Management Advisory Board, and replace it with a new panel, the Farm Animal Advisory Board, broadening the scope of oversight and changing the make-up of the members to mostly large farmers. The move minimizes the role of environmentalists, critics say. | READ MORE
Published in State
On June 6, 2018, the Center for Limnology reported that a toxic algae bloom had begun to spread across Lake Mendota. It quickly led to the closure of beaches around Madison's largest lake.

It also coincided with the launch of a new, four-year effort by Dane County, called Suck the Muck, designed to literally suck a century's-worth of phosphorus from 33-miles of streams that feed the county's lakes.

Phosphorus, a nutrient found in the manure applied to agricultural fields, makes its way to Wisconsin waters (and waterways elsewhere) in runoff following rain storms. When the weather is warm, it can lead to the foul-smelling water and toxic algae blooms that plague lakes like Mendota, which is situated in an agricultural landscape.

This runoff may be getting worse, according to a recent study from researchers with the Water Sustainability and Climate Project at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. With a changing climate, the frequency of high-intensity rain events is on the rise. These storms bring heavy rains over a short period of time and exacerbate phosphorus runoff from manure-covered agricultural fields, more so than scientists expected.

"Both things are bad for water quality – too much manure is bad and too many intense storms are bad, too," says lead author of the study in Environmental Research Letters, Melissa Motew. "This is a story about how one problem really compounds another problem."

Indeed, the Lake Mendota algal bloom came on the heels of the second-wettest May in Madison's recorded history, and its eighth warmest. The National Weather Service reported that May 2018 was the wettest on record for the contiguous United States.

But Motew didn't start out asking how heavy storms and manure interact synergistically to affect water quality. It was while studying legacy phosphorus in soils ­– the accumulation of the nutrient over time – that she and the research team noticed something interesting in the data.

"We knew that heavy rain transports a lot of phosphorus off of a field and in 2014, (co-author Stephen Carpenter, emeritus professor and director of CFL) found that a relatively small number of rain events each year were delivering the majority of phosphorus to the lakes," she explains. "We happened to notice that it seemed like when we had periods of heavy rainfall we were seeing worse water quality than we expected. It prompted us to set up this study."

Climate change is bringing more intense rainfall across the U.S., particularly in the Midwest and Northeast. The 2014 study from Carpenter and colleagues showed that 74 percent of the phosphorus load in Lake Mendota is now delivered across just 29 days each year, and a 2016 study from scientists at Marylhurst University in Oregon and UW–Madison showed that annual precipitation in the Yahara watershed, which includes Lake Mendota, increased by 2.1 mm each year between 1930 and 2010.

This amounts to an increase of about seven inches of additional rain today, Motew explains. That same study also showed that while the frequency of large storm events in the region averaged 9.5 events per decade between 1930 and 1990, between 1991 and 2010, the number of large storm events nearly doubled, reaching 18 events per decade.

Using simulation models, Motew and the study team asked how more extreme rain events might interact with manure-and-fertilizer phosphorus supply on croplands to affect runoff at the level of an individual lake and the streams that feed it. That is, what happens when a given amount of rain falls on a field over the course of two hours instead of 24 hours?

"The model lets us scale up and make interesting observations from the scale of one field to the entire watershed," she says. "Models let us home in and study the process of how phosphorus moves in great detail."

Using two 60-year climate scenarios, one which assumed daily precipitation, maximum and minimum temperatures, wind speeds, relative humidity and solar radiation similar to current mean annual values in Madison, and another assuming more extreme rain events, Motew's model explored what happens to phosphorus concentrations in Lake Mendota and its tributary streams under low- and high-intensity precipitation conditions.

It took into account the real-life practices of farmers in the watershed – including their typical fertilizer and manure applications and tillage practices, the amount of phosphorus already stored in the surface layers of the soil, and the composition of the land around Lake Mendota. More than half of the land surrounding it is agricultural.

Motew found that dissolved phosphorus – the kind found in manure, as compared to other fertilizers and that found in soil – combined synergistically with heavy rain events to increase the amount of phosphorus running off into Lake Mendota and its streams.

"This puts us at even greater risk of worsening water quality," says Christopher Kucharik, study co-author and Motew's former graduate advisor. "This result also has wide-reaching implications because the synergistic relationship will likely be present in many agricultural watersheds around the world, where livestock and surface water co-exist."

Phosphorus is a critical nutrient for living organisms like crops. But what it does on land, it also does in water: encourages growth of organisms like plants and algae. When they die, these organisms fall to the bottom of an affected waterway, decomposing and consuming oxygen. This kills wildlife and encourages the growth of cyanobacteria, the organism behind toxic algae blooms. In some parts of the country, it can lead to dead zones, like in the Gulf of Mexico.

Farmers in Dane County and elsewhere are already applying less manure and doing so more precisely, Motew says, and she is hopeful these strategies will help to reduce phosphorus runoff from their croplands.

Motew, who is now a research fellow at The Nature Conservancy, also thinks farmers should be a part of continuing efforts to improve water quality. "We need to partner more with farmers so we can not only improve our own research by using better data, but so we can work together and build on their ideas, too." she says. "They know the problems up-close-and-personal and can provide insights we haven't considered. We as scientists can help explore where those insights may lead."

Motew adds: "Farmers are key to solving the problem, even though they are frequently blamed. We all need to take responsibility for our food system and find ways to support farmers in better manure management."

The study was supported by the National Science Foundation (grant numbers DEB-1038759 and DEB-1440297).
Published in Other
Last June, the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board (RB5) adopted a General Order for Confined Bovine Feeding Operations (R5- 2017-0058). Heifer operations and feedyards that supplement feed (confine animals) more than 45 days a year are covered by this Order and include: Calf ranches, dairy heifer operations, stockyards, finishing yards, auction yards, veal calf facilities, and corrals or other confinement areas used to finish cattle for slaughter at grazing operations.

What is not covered: Corrals that are an integral part of a grazing or pasture operation.

This order covers limited time operations (auction yards), smaller facilities (with less than 100 animal units), and all other facilities. Although there are reduced monitoring and reporting requirements for the auction yards and smaller facilities, all facilities need to submit a Notice of Intent.

RB5 staff identify more than 800 facilities will be covered under this Order. | READ MORE 
Published in News
What if odor from swine confinement barns could be reduced by 65 percent or more?

It's possible with trees and technology, according to Iowa Select Farms, which is incorporating evergreens and innovative electrostatic fencing at its new 4,800-head Hale Finisher Farm near Williams.

The odor associated with pork production is often transported on dust particles from hog barns. Planting trees and shrubs planted around hog facilities helps reduce odor, improve site aesthetics and helps control snow deposition. Iowa State University research shows that trees can help reduce swine barn odors by 10 to 15 percent. | READ MORE
Published in Swine
Columbus, Ohio – It may not be a popular solution, but a recent study from The Ohio State University shows the least costly way to cut nearly half the phosphorus seeping into Lake Erie is taxing farmers on phosphorous purchases or paying farmers to avoid applying it to their fields.

Doctoral student Shaohui Tang and Brent Sohngen, a professor of agricultural economics, conducted the study in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

At a projected price tag of up to $20 million annually, a phosphorus subsidy to Ohio farmers or a phosphorus tax would be far cheaper than many of the proposed measures being recommended to reduce phosphorus in Lake Erie, Sohngen said. These proposals are estimated to cost anywhere from $40 million per year to $290 million per year, in addition to the $32 million spent on current conservation practices.

Phosphorus spurs the growth of harmful algal blooms, which poisoned Toledo's drinking water in 2014 and impact the lake's recreation, tourism and real-estate values.

A tax on phosphorus would be an added expense for farmers and "not many people want to talk about it," Sohngen said. "From an economics standpoint, it is the cheapest option."

The money generated from a tax on phosphorus, which would be paid by farmers, could be partially returned to farmers for using conservation measures on their land. It could also compensate others affected by the water quality issue including Toledo and lake area residents to pay for improved water treatment and fishing charter businesses that lose income when algal blooms are severe.

Sohngen presented the estimated costs associated with different methods of cutting phosphorus sources to Lake Erie during a recent conference hosted the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics within CFAES.

Each of the options Sohngen presented is aimed at cutting the phosphorus runoff entering Lake Erie by 40 percent within 10 years, a goal the state has been aiming for but has not yet reached.

"If we want to achieve a 40 percent reduction, it's going to be more expensive than most people imagine," Sohngen said.

Costlier options than the phosphorus tax and subsidy include reducing phosphorus application on fields by 50 percent statewide and incorporating any phosphorus into the soil so it does not remain on the surface. The price tag on that option is $43.7 million for the machinery needed to incorporate phosphorus and the incentive paid to farmers for not using phosphorus, Sohngen said.

Requiring subsurface placement of phosphorus on only half the region's farmland acres would cost $49.9 million, he said.

All figures were generated by a mathematical model created by Tang, working under the direction of Sohngen.

In recent years, high levels of phosphorus, a nutrient in fertilizer, manure and sewage, have led to harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie as well as in Ohio's inland lakes including Grand Lake St. Marys.

Some measures that have been tried in the state have had little impact on reducing the phosphorus load into Lake Erie, Sohngen said. They include planting cover crops on fields during winter and refraining from tilling the land to prevent erosion.

"We're at the point of a phase shift, of having more information to give us better focus on where we need to turn our attention," said Gail Hesse, director of water programs for the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Regional Center.

Hesse, who was the keynote speaker at the conference where Sohngen presented his findings, noted that agriculture is the predominant source of the phosphorus going into Lake Erie.

Climate change, including the increase in intense rainfalls over short periods, has worsened efforts to keep phosphorus out of Lake Erie because rainfall can increase the chances of phosphorus running off a field with the rainwater, she pointed out.

"We don't have enough practices in place across the landscape," she said. "We still have more to do."
Published in State
Farmers and manure managers in North America have known for years that phosphorus is a huge concern, but solutions for handling this nutrient have not come easy. Hauling manure away to locations where fields aren’t already saturated isn’t always practical or cost-effective.
Published in Dairy
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.
Published in Air quality
An innovation that could have a huge impact on water quality problems in the United States, a system capable of removing almost all phosphorus from stored livestock manure, was developed by a team of researchers from Penn State and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.

Excess phosphorus, primarily in runoff from land application of manure, accounts for about 66 percent of impaired conditions of U.S. rivers and has created large areas of eutrophication — dead zones — in the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, where aquatic life cannot survive.

Nutrient pollution is one of America's most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The system devised by Penn State and USDA scientists — dubbed MAPHEX for MAnure PHosphorus EXtraction — involves a three-stage process, including liquid-solid separation with an auger press and centrifuge; chemical treatment with the addition of iron sulfate; and final filtration with diatomaceous earth. The machine is designed to process manure from manure-storage tanks or pits on dairy farms.

"This technology could be a game-changer if we can modify it to achieve lower operating costs," said lead Penn State researcher Alex Hristov, professor of dairy nutrition in the College of Agricultural Sciences. "The final stage uses diatomaceous earth to filter phosphorous from the fluid and that material is expensive."

Clinton Church, with USDA Agricultural Research Service's Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, said the team is currently looking at recycling the diatomaceous earth.

"We are also trying to find a less expensive substitute for the filtration stage of the MAPHEX process, such as replacing the filtration stage with another centrifuge," Church said.

When tested at 150- and 2,700-cow dairies, about 98 percent of the phosphorus was removed from manure slurries, along with 93 percent of the solids.

As currently configured, the MAPHEX system would cost approximately $750 per dairy cow per year for a dairy operation — an unrealistic cost when EPA is not imposing restrictions on phosphorus runoff from farms and no government subsidies exist to pay for such technology.

But in the future, if the government enforces clean water regulations on agriculture and if

MAPHEX can be made more affordable to operate, its potential is enormous, Hristov believes.

"We anticipate that refinement of the process and beneficial uses of the solids removed from the manure — such as for plant bedding, compost and fertilizer — will improve cost-efficacy considerably," he said. "And from a stewardship point of view, some larger farmers who can afford to may want to implement a system like this."

Penn State and USDA, which were granted a joint patent on the system in 2017, are looking to license the technology, probably to a large agricultural or waste-processing company. They are not looking to enter into a business arrangement to produce the system, Hristov and Church noted.

Research on the MAPHEX system was conducted in central Pennsylvania, part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and an area with an intense focus on developing treatment systems for manure. Manure from the dairy sector was estimated in 2010 to account for 20 percent of all phosphorus in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Explaining why Pennsylvania was the perfect place to develop MAPHEX, Hristov pointed out that the majority of dairy farms in the study area are small, with fewer than 100 head of cows milked. But an increasing number of larger operations with more than 1,000 head can now be found.

"The liquid nature of most stored dairy manure reduces its potential for off-farm transport and was the impetus for developing treatment options to manipulate manure solids and nutrients," Hristov said.

MAPHEX was designed to be a mobile system that fits on two large flatbed trailers to service a number of small- or medium-size dairies. If it is scaled up to have the capacity to treat manure from a large dairy, it would no longer be mobile.

"If the system is produced by an ag company, we think manure haulers can make a business out of it, a few small dairies could cooperate and buy one, or big dairies with thousands of cows can build a stationary system."

The MAPHEX is not just for cow manure. Church said the technology is compatible with swine manure and it probably could work with chicken manure, too, but because the latter is dry, it would have to be diluted before the process could work.

Also involved in the research were Tyler Frederick, graduate student in animal science, and David Otto, Mike Reiner and Sarah Fishel, USDA Agricultural Research Service staff at the Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit.

A Chesapeake Stewardship Grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and a Research Applications for Innovation grant from the College of Agricultural Sciences in 2017 supported this work.
Published in News
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



Published in Air quality
Ames, IA ― As June approaches, some northern areas of Iowa have experienced delays in corn planting due to a cold spring that turned wet. Producers considering changes to crop rotation should pay attention to the impact it has on manure management plans.

The Iowa Administrative Code only allows a maximum of 100 pounds N per acre manure application on ground to be planted to soybean. However, it does allow fields that had liquid manure applied at rates intended for growing corn to be switched to soybean on or after June 1 with no penalty of over-application of manure nitrogen. Thus if a field planned for corn has not been planted and will be switched to soybean, this can be done. Producers should document the changes in crop rotation, application methods and other changes in their annual manure management plans.

Given it has been a wet spring in some areas, nutrient management and specifically, nitrogen loss may be top of mind. Livestock producers with Iowa Department of Natural Resources [DNR] manure management plans are reminded if they have already applied the maximum nitrogen rate to the field, they can’t apply additional sources of nitrogen unless the need is confirmed by the use of a Late Spring Nitrate Test. This test measures nitrate-N concentration at the 0 to 12-inch depth.

Results can be interpreted by the ISU Extension and Outreach publication “Use of the Late-Spring Soil Nitrate Test in Iowa Corn Production” (CROP 3140), which considers both the original fertilizer source and the amount of rain that occurred in May (excessive is more than five inches in May). When adding extra nitrogen, be sure to document soil sample results and reference the publication to interpret the test results in management plans.

While fall provided favorable application conditions, and periods in March were favorable, producers should plan ahead if not as much manure as normal is applied in the spring. Having a plan in place will help prevent potential issues from turning into problems. Keep an eye on storage, and have a plan for needed action.
Published in State
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