Communities have experience with managing human waste, but as the state's dairy industry has grown in recent years to meet the needs of yogurt, cheese and milk lovers, so has the problem of manure that poses an environmental threat to waterways and residents.Manure management has become controversial, and farms in Central New York are at the center of the debate. READ MORE
Now scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have developed a new system to convert methane into a deep green, energy-rich, gelatin-like substance that can be used as the basis for biofuels and other bioproducts, specialty chemicals — and even feed for cows that create the gas in the first place.
"We take a waste product that is normally an expense and upgrade it to microbial biomass which can be used to make fuel, fertilizer, animal feed, chemicals and other products," said Hans Bernstein, corresponding author of a recent paper in Bioresource Technology.
Methane is an unavoidable byproduct of our lifestyle. Manure from dairy cows, cattle and other livestock that provide us food often breaks down into methane. Drilling processes used to obtain the oil and natural gas we use to drive our cars and trucks or heat our homes often vent or burn off excess methane to the atmosphere, wasting an important energy resourcePNNL scientists approached the problem by getting two very different micro-organisms to live together in harmony.
One is a methane-loving methanotroph, found underground near rice paddies and landfills — where natural methane production typically occurs. The other is a photosynthetic cyanobacterium that resembles algae. Originally cultured from a lake in Siberia, it uses light along with carbon dioxide to produce oxygen.
The two aren't usually found together, but the two co-exist in harmony in a bioreactor at PNNL — thanks to a co-culture system created by Leo Kucek, Grigoriy E. Pinchuk, and Sergey Stolyar as well as Eric Hill and Alex Beliaev, who are two authors of the current paper.
PNNL scientist Hans Bernstein collected methane gas from a Washington dairy farm and Colorado oil fields and fed it to the microbes in the bioreactor.
One bacterium, Methylomicrobium alcaliphilum 20Z, ate the methane and produced carbon dioxide and energy-rich biomass made up largely of a form of carbon that can be used to produce energy.
But Methylomicrobium alcaliphilum 20Z can't do it alone. It needs the other micro-organism, Synechococcus species 7002, which uses light to produce the steady stream of oxygen its counterpart needs to carry out the methane-consuming reaction.
Each one accomplishes an important task while supplying the other with a substance it needs to survive. They keep each other happy and well fed — as Bernstein puts it, they're engaging in a "productive metabolic coupling." READ MORE
Runoff from agricultural sites can be an important source of phosphorus pollution. To help evaluate and reduce this risk, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) first proposed a phosphorus index concept in the early 1990s.
Since then, science progressed and methods improved. In New York State, scientists and agency staff developed and released a phosphorus index in 2003. Now, a new project proposes a restructured index to build on phosphorus management efforts in that state and beyond.
"The idea is to account for the characteristics of a field, and help evaluate the risk of phosphorus runoff from that location," says Quirine Ketterings, lead author of the new study.
The new index structure improves upon previous approaches. It focuses on the existing risk of phosphorus runoff from a field based on the location and how it is currently managed. Qualities like ground cover, erosion potential, and distance to a stream or water-body all come into play. The index also highlights best management practices to reduce this risk.
"The new index approach will direct farmers toward an increasingly safer series of practices," says Ketterings. "Higher-risk fields require more and safer practices to reduce and manage phosphorus runoff."
Ketterings directs the nutrient management spear program at Cornell University. She and her colleagues used a combination of surveys, computer-generated examples, and old-fashioned number crunching. They used characteristics of thousands of farm fields to develop the new index. Involving farmers and farm advisors was also a key step.
"As stakeholders, farmers and farm advisors are more likely to make changes if they understand why," says Ketterings. "Plus, they have experience and knowledge that folks in academia and in governmental agencies often do not."
This field experience can be vital. "Involving stakeholders in decision-making and getting their feedback makes the final product more workable," says Ketterings. "It may also prevent mistakes that limit implementation and effectiveness."
Ketterings stresses that the previous index was not wrong.
"Farming is a business of continuous improvement and so is science," she says. "The initial index was based on the best scientific understanding available at that time. Our new index builds and improves upon the experience and scientific knowledge we have accumulated since the first index was implemented. It is likely this new index will be updated in the future as our knowledge evolves."
The previous index approach could be somewhat time-consuming for planners, according to Ketterings. Further, it didn't always help identify the most effective practices for farmers. The new approach addresses both of these issues.
"We wanted the new index to be practical to use," she says. "The best index has no value if people cannot or will not implement it."
In some circumstances of low or medium soil test phosphorus, the original New York state phosphorus index allowed farms to apply manure and fertilizer in what we now consider to be potentially high-risk settings.
"The new index approach proposes soil test phosphorus cutoffs and also encourages placing manure below the soil surface," says Ketterings. "These changes will bring improvements in phosphorus utilization and management across the farm."
Ketterings also thinks that the new index is more intuitive.
"It allows for ranking of fields based on their inherent risk of phosphorus transport if manure was applied," she says. "It really emphasizes implementing best management practices to reduce phosphorus losses from fields."
In addition, the proposed index approach could make it easier to develop similar indices across state lines, according to Ketterings. This makes sense, since watersheds don't follow state boundaries. Growers could use different practices, if deemed appropriate, for different regions.
READ MORE about Ketterings' work in Journal of Environmental Quality.
April 11, 2017, Charles City, IA — A revised resolution aimed at protecting the health of workers at large animal confinement operations was discussed by the Floyd County Board of Supervisors recently, and its sponsor hopes changes will result in more support this time.
Supervisor Mark Kuhn introduced a resolution at the board meeting the end of February to set worker health safety requirements for applicants seeking to get a state construction permit for a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO). READ MORE
April 11, 2017, Raleigh, NC – North Carolina lawmakers are taking steps to protect the world's largest pork producer from lawsuits accusing its subsidiaries of creating unbearable animal waste odor.
The 2014 lawsuits by about 500 rural neighbors of massive hog farms allege that clouds of flies and intense smells remain a problem nearly a quarter-century since industrial-scale hog farming took off. READ MORE
April 10, 2017, Windsor Heights, IA – Plans to enable farmers and consultants to submit manure management plan updates electronically will lead off the April 18 meeting of the Environmental Protection Commission.
April 10, 2017, Owatonna, MN – Public perception can dictate and lead to public policy. It is important for agriculture professionals to step out of their own boots and look at how they do business from the perspective of the general public. Is it a positive image? If not, the public may seek regulations to change it.
Rick Martens, the executive director of the Minnesota Custom Applicators Association, spoke to a group of manure applicators that were continuing their Commercial Ag Waste Technician training. READ MORE
April 4, 2017, Kewaunee County, WI – A scientist who's looked into widespread well contamination in Kewaunee County says he's now urging owners of tainted wells to find another water source.
U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist Mark Borchardt recently published findings that indicate cow manure is the leading cause of groundwater pollution in Kewaunee County. But he found that human waste from sanitary systems is spoiling drinking water there, too. READ MORE
April 3, 2017, Chicago, IL — Four new measures proposed in the Illinois legislature would tighten the state’s environmental protections on hog confinements and give local citizens more input in the permitting process as well as standing to challenge the massive facilities in court.
The legislation, announced March 28, was proposed in response to an August investigation by the Chicago Tribune. The bills would represent the first significant reforms to the state’s 1996 Livestock Management Facilities Act, which has been criticized for failing to keep up with the dramatic growth of swine confinements. READ MORE
April 3, 2017, Albany, NY – Cows, whose methane-emitting flatulence has been cited as a culprit in global warming, now are being blamed, along with New York’s State Department of Environmental Conservation, for contaminating the state’s water supply with manure.
Riverkeeper and four other groups, including fly fishers and the Sierra Club, sued the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation in Albany County Supreme Court, demanding it strengthen a general water permit for large farm operations to bring it into compliance with the Clean Water Act. READ MORE
March 31, 2017, Roanoke, VA – State environmental regulators have cited a dairy farming operation in Franklin County for a manure spill into a creek that feeds into the Roanoke River basin.
The dairy operation agreed to pay a $3,250 fine in response to violations of the State Water Control Law at the farm.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality responded in September 2015 to a report of a manure spill in Maggodee Creek. The spill was traced back to the operation, where a concrete manure impoundment had a crack in it. READ MORE
March 31, 2017, Winnipeg, Man – The Manitoba government is proposing changes to the Livestock Manure and Mortalities Management Regulation to reduce redundancy, add clarity and eliminate ineffective regulations.
The Manitoba government has launched a 45-day public consultation on proposed amendments to the Livestock Manure and Mortalities Management Regulation. The proposed amendments to the regulation are intended to align with recent changes to the Environment Act under the province’s red tape reduction initiative. Sustainable Development Minister Cathy Cox says these changes will further reduce redundant or duplicated language, improve the clarity of processes and remove ineffective regulations.
“Just to be clear, we have maintained all of our environmental restrictions on manure management, including a ban on winter spreading that will remain, requiring manure management plans will remain, soil testing and a requirement for construction permits,” said Cox. “We have removed the requirement of an ineffective manure management treatment process based on scientific recommendations and practicability. The changes we are proposing, both in the act and in the regulation, are about maintaining our environmental standards while eliminating unnecessary or redundant stipulations. Having the environmental rules in regulation as opposed to legislation allows us to keep up with innovation more flexibly. It is bad policy to have technological prescriptions in legislation.
“We have held technical briefings for industry stakeholders and NGOs in the past few weeks and are now opening it up to public consultation, which we are actually enhancing from 30 to 45 days.”
March 28, 2017, Madison, WI – Dairy and livestock producers in Wisconsin who spread manure on their own land will need to be aware of some new changes taking effect next year.
March 23. 2017, Springfield, IL – Pork producers continue to be industry leaders on environmental sustainability issues by using manure as a natural fertilizer to offset the use of commercial fertilizers.
Dr. Ted Funk, agricultural engineering consultant for the Illinois Pork Producers Association, has been charged with developing an Illinois Manure Calculator to help producers efficiently calculate their manure usage.
“The Illinois Manure Calculator is built for the Illinois-specific manure plan rules, enabling a livestock producer to quickly balance manure applications with field crop nutrient needs,” explains Dr. Funk. “The user enters manure storages with the respective manure sample data, information for fields that will receive manure, and the general type of manure application equipment being used.”
The app automates the nutrient management planning worksheet that Illinois livestock producers are already required to understand in their Certified Livestock Manager Training workshops coordinated by University of Illinois Extension.
“Calculating the right manure application rate has always been a time-consuming exercise for producers, because they have to gather data from several places before they can compute the answer,” explains Dr. Richard Gates with University of Illinois Extension. “This mobile app puts everything right at their fingertips. I can see how it could become one of the most-used apps on the smartphone during the manure hauling season.”
The app calculates a manure application rate, based on the choice of nitrogen or phosphorus limits, and the N, P, and K that will be applied to the field. It also allows the user to enter a trial application rate, to see the effect on the nutrient balance. Completed calculations can be emailed directly to the user for entry into the farm’s main manure nutrient management plan.
“Producers are always looking for ways to improve their current manure management and application practices,” says Jennifer Tirey, executive director of the Illinois Pork Producers Association. “This free manure rate calculator will give producers another tool in the tool box for carefully developing their manure management plans while utilizing best management practices.”
The mobile app is available for iPhone and Android users. To download the free app visit the app store and search for “Illinois Manure Calculator.”
March 20, 2017, Calgary, Alta – Livestock Water Recycling, in partnership with the Birss Research Group from the University of Calgary, has been named to a short list of finalists to win Stage One of the George Barley Water Prize.
LWR’s innovation team’s submission included the Waterway Nanoshield solution that combines the water recycling ability of the LWR system with a patented technology developed at the University of Calgary.
The George Barley Water Prize is a competition that will advance viable technologies through stages over the course of four years, awarding cash prizes along the way, and ultimately crowning one phosphorus removal solution with a $10 million grand prize in 2020.
Florida dairy farmers have a vested interest in protecting wetlands, eco-diversity and other natural resources. For centuries, they have used traditional methods of manure management, and today, they are excited about evolving technology that will help them continue to reduce their environmental footprint.
The competition brings a variety of phosphorus solutions to Florida where they are facing a major a water crisis. In recent years, algae blooms have become commonplace in Lake Okeechobee, the largest freshwater lake in the state and the heart of the Central Everglades. One out of every three Floridians, an estimated 8 million people, relies on the Everglades for their water supply.
According to NASA, the algae bloom that grew last spring covered roughly 33 square miles of the lake, and was blamed for affecting water quality downstream all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
With more than 25 years experience protecting fresh bodies of water around the world, the Innovation Team at LWR is excited to be a part of finding a solution for Florida.
“Bringing our technology to the Everglades is very important to us.” says Charles Zhang, team lead on the project. “Florida is home to more than 130 dairy farms that are primarily owned and operated by second and third-generation farmers. We want to offer them a solution that will keep Florida dairy farmers farming sustainably for generations to come.”
LWR’s Waterway Nanoshield solution was among 77 global solutions that entered Stage One of the competition.
March 20, 2017, Winnipeg, Man – The Manitoba government is introducing proposed legislation that would reduce outdated, contradictory, complicated or ineffective regulatory requirements imposed on businesses, industry and local governments, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said recently.
Among the regulatory changes being considered is removal of general prohibitions from the province’s Environment Act for the expansion of hog barns and manure storage facilities.
“Our government recognizes the status quo has created unnecessary challenges for both industry and government,” said Friesen. “The proposed changes were identified as priority actions by both industry leaders and the civil service. Once implemented, these changes would improve efficiency and effectiveness, making it easier for all Manitobans to prosper and focus on their priorities.”
The Manitoba government introduced the freeze on new hog barn construction and expansions near Lake Winnipeg starting in 2006, expanding it province-wide in 2011. The province’s ban on winter manure spreading was imposed in 2013. Both pieces of legislation were aimed at reducing phosphorus runoff into waterways.
March 17, 2017, Sioux Falls, SD – It’s generally not recommended to spread manure on frozen, snow-covered fields, but there are certain guidelines producers should follow when storage pits are reaching capacity and applying manure in the winter is necessary.
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NutrientSmart 2.0Fri Mar 23, 2018 @ 9:00AM - 04:00PM
2018 Western United Dairymen Annual ConferenceWed Mar 28, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
6th International Symposium on Animal Mortality ManagementSun Jun 03, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
2018 World Pork ExpoWed Jun 06, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Anaerobic Digester Operator Training – WisconsinTue Jun 19, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
2018 North American Manure ExpoWed Aug 15, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM