All contamination will eventually find its way downstream. In Connecticut that means it may travel through neighborhoods where residents swim, to larger recreational areas such as beaches, and eventually to the Long Island Sound and shellfish beds. And, without knowing the exact source of the problem, the contamination can’t be addressed.
John Clausen of University of Connecticut’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, is now testing a protocol he developed to find the source. Clausen started this project almost by chance when he realized that a method had not yet been developed.
“I discovered that no one has perfected the technique for being able to look at a water sample, find E. coli and tell you where it came from, so that’s my quest,” he says.
The first step toward this goal was to identify the streams to monitor, which was a rigorous process, says Clausen.
While there are plenty of waterways in the state that are contaminated – 200 in 2016, according to Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection – the streams needed to pass by farmland.
Farm animals and animals, in general, are often the source of the contamination. So Clausen started in the Thames river Basin, initially picking more than 30 sites and then narrowing that number down to 10 streams.
Once the sites were chosen, Clausen installed a type of water sampler at each location to collect samples whenever there is a significant rainfall event.
“When you get one-to-two inch storms, you really get high E. coli values,” says Clausen.
To help with the collection efforts, the researchers coordinated volunteers to collect and deliver the water samples from all of the sites after heavy rain events. Clausen says they’ve become very good at watching the weather to determine when to collect samples.
Then the samples with high contamination are sent to a lab to quantify the level of coliform bacteria from animal sources.
Now Clausen is designing tests for E. coli specifically. He and his team of student researchers are developing tests for chicken, horse, cow and human sources. The process involves collecting fecal samples, isolating the bacteria and their DNA, pinpointing species specific markers to target and then working out the fine details to optimize the tests.
“We are now in the statistics part of development. This winter we’ll be sequencing to see how well our tests match up with the bacteria in the water samples,” says Clausen.
The overall goal is to identify producers and sources of contamination so remediation efforts can be put in place. Clausen points out that industry already has best practices to reduce E. coli in waterways from agricultural sources, manure management being one of those. When manure is not handled properly, for example, bacteria-rich runoff can easily make its way into our waterways.
“Just storing manure in holding tanks is very effective. There is a die-off period for pathogens, after which the manure can be spread more safely,” Clausen says.
Unfortunately for farmers, holding tanks are pricey and other best practices are not always easy to carry out.
But fortunately in the case of E. coli, unlike that for other types of runoff such as fertilizers, the E. coli that make their way into the watershed don’t seem to persist for quite so long.
Once bacterial source tracking is available and sources of contamination are identified, remediation efforts could potentially have a big impact on returning streams to safe levels fairly quickly.
“I’ve already had officials ask if we can start testing,” says Clausen. “We’re not there yet, but I think we’re close.”
The DNR developed the rules largely in response to widespread groundwater contamination in Kewaunee County. Manure runoff has harmed drinking and surface water in parts of the county and other communities.
The regulations limit how much manure farms in the counties can spread. The limits vary according to the depth of each farm's topsoil. Farms with less than two feet of topsoil would be prohibited from spreading any manure. The restrictions also carve out zones around wells where farmers can't spread manure. READ MORE
The DNR has been working on the regulations for two years, largely in response to widespread drinking water contamination in Kewaunee County. The initial version called for statewide manure restrictions, but the dairy industry balked at the potential costs after Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s office shared the plan with farm groups. READ MORE
The NY Department of Environmental Conservation said it was notified of a manure spill on Jan. 10 at Indian Field Road due to a mechanical failure in farm equipment. READ MORE
Corporation Counsel Jeff Wisnicky told the county Land & Water Conservation Committee that enforcement of regulations on manure land-spreading is better suited to the goal than trying to impose a moratorium on herd expansion. READ MORE
The Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture asked lawmakers to support 15 bills tightening oversight of confinements introduced by Sen. David Johnson, an independent from Ocheyeden. READ MORE
The permit, effective Feb. 1, 2018, through Jan. 31, 2023, sets the effluent limitations, monitoring requirements and other conditions regarding the management and use of manure and process wastewater generated by the operation’s 5,250 animal units. READ MORE
That’s what attendees at a public hearing on a new permit for the dairy asked the Oregon Department of Agriculture Jan. 10. READ MORE
“I am excited to build relationships with farmers locally and statewide to help them maximize production while remaining environmentally sound as well as educating community members on the important role that agriculture plays in the food system and the steps agriculture takes daily to protect the environment,” Rogers said.
She will be based out of the Gratiot County MSU Extension office in Alma, Michigan.
A native of Michigan, Rogers’ passion for both animal science and Extension programming began at a young age through her experiences in 4-H, which carried forward as she earned her bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University in 2012. Her dedication and interest in Extension programming led her to pursue a master’s degree in Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Animal Science, which she completed in 2017.
Rogers’ research efforts [which will be featured in an upcoming Manure Manager magazine feature] centered on environmental poultry management, focusing on discovering and promoting efficient poultry production systems that place minimum burden on the environment. Although managing manure and the by-products of poultry production are obvious endeavors, other important efforts include impacts of odor, flies and traffic (to name a few) on the environment. All of which are important to the sustainability of poultry production and processing in Pennsylvania. Rogers and her advisors, Dr. Paul Patterson and Dr. Michael Hulet, addressed this region’s industry needs for research-based information on poultry manure production and nutrient content within the Chesapeake Bay watershed through Rogers’ master’s thesis project, which investigated nutrients produced by commercial laying hens, laying hen pullets, broilers, turkeys, and breeders under changing management styles for use in the Chesapeake Bay models that determine Total Maximum Daily Loads. She presented her work at the 2017 International Poultry Scientific Forum during the International Production & Processing Expo in Atlanta, GA, and the 2017 Poultry Science Association Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL.
Through her research efforts at Pennsylvania State University, Rogers has worked with poultry integrators and visited more than 70 farms, collecting manure samples from random points and at varying depths throughout manure stacks. The manure was sampled at the time of hauling to best represent the nutrients being land applied. Due to the nature of her research, Rogers discovered a passion for helping farmers be successful in their operations and to help the community better understand agriculture’s role in protecting the environment.
The proposed rule is a compromise between what the industry and conservationists wanted to see. At least one environmental group has been telling key lawmakers the rules don’t go far enough, but that it’s crucial that they be put in place as soon as possible as a first step to protect as many as 25,000 drinking water wells. READ MORE
In the Midwest, the problem is largely due to phosphorus, a key element in fertilizers that is carried off the land and into the water, where it grows algae as easily as it grows corn and soybeans.
Previous research had found that waterways receive most of their annual phosphorus load in only a dozen or two events each year, reports Steve Carpenter, director emeritus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Limnology and lead author of a new paper published online in the journal Limnology and Oceanography.
The paper ties those phosphorus pulses to extreme rain events. In fact, Carpenter says, the bigger the rainstorm, the more phosphorus is flushed downstream.
Carpenter and his colleagues used daily records of stream discharge to measure the amount of phosphorus running into Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisc., from two of its main tributaries.
The dataset spanned a period from the early 1990s to 2015. The scientists then looked at long-term weather data and found that big rainstorms were followed immediately by big pulses of phosphorus.
The researchers reviewed stream data from the same period, when seven of the 11 largest rain storms since 1901 occurred.
"This is an important example of how changes in one aspect of the environment, in this case precipitation, can lead to changes in other aspects, such as phosphorus load," said Tom Torgersen, director of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Water, Sustainability and Climate program, which, along with NSF's Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, funded the research.
“This study's findings, which depend on long-term data, are important to maintaining water quality not only today, but into the future," added David Garrison, chair of NSF's LTER Working Group.
Carpenter agreed. "Without long-term data, this research would never have happened."
The next steps, he said, need to include new strategies for managing nutrient runoff.
Farmers and conservation groups now use several strategies to try to slow water down and capture some of the sediment and fertilizer it carries as it runs off a field.
"But we're not going to solve the problem with buffer strips or contour plowing or winter cover crops," said Carpenter. Although those practices all help, he said, "eventually a really big storm will overwhelm them."
The best available option for protecting water quality is to keep excess phosphorus off the landscape, Carpenter said.
"A rainstorm can't wash fertilizer or manure downstream if it isn't there."
Carpenter noted that while there are countless acres in the Midwest that are oversaturated with phosphorus, there are also places that aren't. And that, he said, "is an encouraging sign. Some farmers are having success in decreasing their soil phosphorus, and we could learn from them."
“This analysis clearly shows that extreme rainfall is responsible for a large amount of the phosphorus that flows into inland waters,” added John Schade, an NSF LTER program director. “Now, we need to develop nutrient management strategies to meet the challenge. Without long-term data like those presented here, the impact of these events would be difficult to assess."
Manure application in winter should not ever be part of a manure management plan. Rather, it should be part of a contingency plan, because we all know that weather happens. Frequent rain and a late corn harvest are taxing manure storage capacities on many farms. Contingency plans are essential for manure that must be applied in less than ideal conditions. A forage or wheat field can be an ideal site for contingency plan manure application, because compaction should not be an issue, and the soil cover would help prevent nutrient runoff and erosion. Forage or wheat fields are ideal for those reasons. However, winterkill becomes a much greater risk, especially with application of liquid manure. Why? Beside the common risks – which include compaction from wheel traffic and crown damage – manure contains salts!
Salinization, the concentration of salt in the root zone, is not an issue in Ontario. Ample precipitation and drainage leaches the salts through the soil profile. However, when the soil is frozen, infiltration can’t occur. Salts in manure can then turn deadly. High sodium also has a negative effect on soil structure; making the soil more susceptible to crusting, and further decreasing the capacity for infiltration.
Livestock manure contains many salts, including ammonium, calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. When accrued, they can be significant. Salt content varies from farm to farm based on livestock species, diet formulation and even the salt in the drinking water. Many manure analyses report “Total Salts” or electrical conductivity (EC) to reflect the accumulated salts. A typical hog manure (as applied basis) can have about 20 mS/cm (milliSemens/cm) or about 125 lbs of total salts per 1,000 gallons. Dairy manure average is 14 mS/cm or about 90 lbs/1000 gallons. Sodium and magnesium chloride have a working temperatures to about -15° C; potassium chloride to -4° C, while calcium chloride can work to about -23° C.
When manure is applied on frozen or snow-covered soils, the salts melt the snow and ice at the soil surface. The layer below may still be frozen, preventing infiltration. The melted, saturated layer is high in salts, toxic to roots, and more prone to erosion and runoff, and more susceptible to frost heaving. All these risks are increased where manure with high EC or total salt contents has been applied.
When contingency plan applications become necessary during the winter season, options include:
- Late summer application to forage crops after the final cut or at the beginning of the critical harvest period,
- Temporary storage at a neighbouring storage that has extra capacity,
- Application to forage fields or cover crops that will be tilled or killed,
- Application to the most level harvested fields, preferably with residue still present, furthest away from surface water, where application does not occur through water runs or “flow paths.”
Sampling manure at the time of application should be standard practice. A manure analysis that includes total salts will help to determine the level of risk if contingency application in winter is a last resort.
The McCloskey’s farm is located in Houston, where they grow broilers for Allen Harim Foods. On top of the four poultry houses, with a capacity of 136,800 birds per flock, the McCloskey’s farm 500 acres of grain. As part of their efforts to be good environmental stewards, the McCloskey’s have utilized diverse road-side plantings to help reduce dust, control odors, and increase aesthetics; a storm water pond on the farm is fed by seven swales; and they follow a nutrient management plan that utilizes their poultry litter for soil health benefits. When farming is done for the day, both Jordan and Randy serve as ambassadors for the industry speaking with neighbors about the antibiotic-free chickens they raise and debunking myths surrounding the industry.
The Environmental Stewardship Awards were presented recently to the McCloskey’s and three other runner-ups by Nutrient Management Commission Chairman Bill Vanderwende and Nutrient Management Administrator Chris Brosch.
“Each of the poultry companies nominates a Delaware poultry grower that excels in preserving and enhancing environmental quality on their farms,” Brosch said. “These farmers are great examples of the hard work and dedication that Delaware farmers have in protecting our land and water resources.”
- Josh Parker of Bridgeville who began farming in 2008, grows for Perdue Farms, with a capacity of 100,500 roasters per flock. Parker has planted a diverse assortment of flowering native shrubs and trees as visual buffers and windbreaks. He has planted bald cypress trees in swales between houses to help take up nutrients, while storm water from the production area drains into a farm pond for treatment.
- Norris and Phyllis West of Laurel, who grow for Mountaire Farms, have six poultry houses with a capacity of 168,000 broilers per flock. The West’s have been raising chickens since 1968. The farm has four modern and well-maintained poultry houses. On the property, the West’s utilize three manure sheds and two composters. They have created a drainage pond and planted the banks in trees as a buffer.
- Brian Kunkowski of Laurel, who grows for Amick, raises 144,000 broilers per flock in his four poultry houses on 32 acres. Along with a manure shed, the storm water engineering includes stone beds along the houses, grass swales draining to a 2.5-acre pond lined with giant trees and a screened drain. Kunkowski also owns horses, but leaves the hayfields un-mowed in the winter so that wildlife can benefit.
- Have up-to-date sample information for both the manure being used and the soil.
- Correlate the amount of manure that is being spread on the field with the field’s soil sample.
- Choose fields that have low run-off potential.
- Map the fields maintaining buffers around surface waters and other sensitive areas. Do not forget drainage tile lines.
- Understand available tools that will help determine if it is appropriate to spread on a given day, check out this article [http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/when_is_the_best_time_to_spread_manure_to_optimize_crop_production_and_mini] by Shelby Burlew for more information on a tool that is available for Michigan farmers.
This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu/newsletters. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).
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
Changes to the regulation will improve clarity for both producers and department officials, while maintaining some of the country’s strictest regulatory requirements and environmental protection measures for livestock operations. Pig operations will now be subject to the same robust legislation as other livestock sectors. READ MORE
The funding was provided through the first round of the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation Waste Storage and Transfer System Program. It supports projects that will allow livestock farms to better manage and store nutrients, such as manure, to protect ground water and nearby waterways. The program is a part of the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 which invests an unprecedented level of resources for drinking water, wastewater infrastructure and other water quality protections statewide.
"Agriculture remains a key part of New York's economy and this funding will help farms in every corner of this state protect drinking water supplies and waterways, while also remaining competitive," Governor Cuomo said. "With this program, we are supporting New York's economy and ensuring our essential natural resources are preserved for years to come."
Through the program, 61 waste storage and transfer systems will be installed on CAFO-permitted farms in 25 counties throughout the state. Grants will help offset the cost of construction, site preparation and associated best management practices. Funded projects will also help farmers meet the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's new environmental requirements first announced in January of this year.
The funding is being provided to County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, which applied on behalf of eligible farmers, in the Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, Southern Tier, and Western New York Regions.
"This grant program will assist dairy and livestock farmers to better protect critical natural resources and to meet the State's important environmental regulations," said New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee Chair Dale Stein. "Local Soil and Water Conservation Districts are excited to partner with farmers to implement these projects and promote best management practices across the state."
New York State has more than 500 CAFO farms, most of which are dairy farms with 300 or more cows. CAFOs can also include other livestock operations such as beef, poultry and equine farms that meet regulatory thresholds. Grant funding for the CAFO Waste Storage and Transfer System Program is available over three consecutive application rounds. The Department of Agriculture and Markets will launch a second and third application period for an additional $15 million in both 2018 and 2019.
In addition, the Department of Agriculture and Markets along with the Department of Environmental Conservation have developed an informational document to educate communities on the importance of manure storage facilities to maintain New York State's environmental standards. Manure storage provides farmers with more flexibility to apply manure at optimum times – after a crop is harvested and when weather and field conditions present a low risk of run-off – for efficient uptake and recycling by crops. Storing manure makes it possible for farmers to better achieve a higher level of nutrient management and maintain environmental protections. The fact sheet can be found here.
The Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 invests $2.5 billion in critical water infrastructure across New York State. This historic investment in drinking water infrastructure, wastewater infrastructure and source water protection actions will enhance community health and wellness, safeguard the State's most important water resources, and create jobs. Funding for projects will prioritize regional and watershed level solutions, and incentivize consolidation and sharing of water and wastewater services.
The Tulane Nitrogen Reduction Challenge is an international competition to find a significant, scalable solution to reduce nitrogen runoff from farming, a primary culprit behind vast algae blooms that cause massive annual “dead zones” in waters throughout the world.
Adapt-N competed against three others challenge finalists, Cropsmith of Farmer City, Illinois; Pivot Bio of Berkeley, California and Stable'N of Carmi, Illinois. Teams tested their innovations during a growing season on a farm in northeast Louisiana along the Mississippi River.
A 16-member advisory board of academics, scientists, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, farmers and national experts selected the winner based on crop yield, nitrogen reduction and the cost and market viability of their innovation.
Adapt-N gives farmers precise nitrogen recommendations for every section of their fields. The tool relies on U.S. Department of Agriculture soil databases, field-specific soil and management information and high-resolution weather data.
“The user enters some basic information on management practices like the date of planting, the type of corn hybrid that they are using and some information on the soil like the organic matter content,” said Adapt-N team leader Harold van Es. “We combine that with other data, notably weather data, like precipitation, solar radiation and temperature, and then we dynamically simulate the nitrogen environment in the field — in the soil and in the crop.”
The system is designed to enable farmers to reduce the overall nitrogen rate while increasing profitability.
“We can roughly reduce the environmental impact by about a third — 35 to 40 percent — and that’s both the impacts from nitrate leaching, which is the primary concern with the Gulf hypoxia issue, as well as greenhouse gas losses, which is also a big concern,” van Es said.
Tulane launched the grand challenge in 2014 to identify and nurture the most innovative and adaptable technologies to fight hypoxia. Seventy-seven teams from 10 countries entered the contest. Phyllis Taylor, president of the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation and a member of the board of Tulane, funded the effort.
“Mrs. Taylor’s vision of the Tulane Nitrogen Reduction Challenge highlights the opportunities with technological innovations. But we should see this event in a much bigger context, in my view, as a start-off point for governments, the scientific community, the fertilizer industry and farmers to raise the bar on nutrient management,” van Es said. “That will end up helping solve the hypoxia problem. It is time. And I hope that they will fully embrace these types of innovations and help farmers overcome the adoption barriers.”
Tulane President Mike Fitts thanked Taylor for her leadership in spearheading the challenge and inspiring innovators to come together to focus on a major environmental issue like hypoxia.
“This competition, this process, has set in motion some of the great minds around the world thinking about an important problem,” Fitts said. “That is what Tulane University is about. And this is such an inspired way for us to participate in solving world problems."
Wisconsin Sea Grant is providing backing for an evaluation effort of the Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast (RRAF) through the Environmental Resources Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and University of Wisconsin-Extension and thanks to funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that was awarded to the National Weather Service. READ MORE
The annual report provides progress updates on point source and nonpoint source efforts to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loads leaving the state. The report follows the “logic model” framework that identifies measurable indicators of desirable change that can be quantified, and represents a progression toward the goals of achieving a 45 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus loads leaving the state.
“There are a wide variety of factors that impact water quality and this report seeks to identify and quantify all of the work being done,” said Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “We continue to see progress among all aspects of measures that have been identified, we just need to continue to accelerate and scale-up our efforts.”
“We continue to focus highly on the main goal of water quality improvement and it is gratifying to see we are moving in that direction,” said Iowa DNR Director Chuck Gipp. “A great deal of collaboration and cooperation has taken place which has enhanced and continues to enhance the partnerships and teamwork being done to successfully meet our end goals.”
The “logic model” framework recognizes that in order to affect change in water quality, there is a need for increased inputs, measured as funding, staff, and resources. Inputs affect change in outreach efforts and human behavior. This shift toward more conservation-conscious attitudes in the agricultural and point source communities is a desired change in the human dimension of water quality efforts.
With changes in human attitudes and behavior, changes on the land may occur, measured as conservation practice adoption and wastewater treatment facility upgrades. Finally, these physical changes on the land may affect change in water quality, which ultimately can be measured through both empirical water quality monitoring and through modeled estimates of nutrient loads in Iowa surface water.
“While it will take time to reach the 45 percent reduction goal, the indicators we track are moving in the right direction,” said John Lawrence, interim vice president of extension and research at Iowa State University.
The report was compiled by the Iowa Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State University with support from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. A draft of the report was shared with the Iowa Water Resources Coordinating Council in late September and their feedback was incorporated into the recently finalized report.
Manure Science Review coming soon!There are safe, research-tested, beneficial ways to use manure on…
Iowa nitrogen pollution in the water is getting worse, despite investmentsNitrogen pollution flowing out of Iowa to the Gulf of…
California department of food and agriculture awards funding for dairy digester projectsThe California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has awarded…
Will Lancaster County farmers be banned from spreading manure in winter?A ban on Lancaster County farmers spreading manure during winter…
Manure Science ReviewWed Jul 25, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Environmental protection division - Stakeholder meetingThu Aug 02, 2018 @10:00AM - 12:00PM
2018 North American Manure ExpoWed Aug 15, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
2018 Canada's Outdoor Farm ShowTue Sep 11, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Farm Science Review 2018Tue Sep 18, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
U.S. Poultry & Egg Environmental Management SeminarThu Sep 20, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM