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 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
For poultry manure, handlers are reminded to stockpile poultry litter close to the fields actually receiving the manure. Stockpiles need to be 500 feet from a residence, 300 feet from a water source and 1,500 feet from a public water intake. Poultry litter cannot be stockpiled in a floodplain and cannot have offsite water running across the litter stockpile area. The site also cannot have a slope greater than six percent.
Litter stockpiles need to be monitored for insect activity and steps taken to keep insect populations in check if necessary. Farmers receiving poultry litter from a permitted facility need to have their fertilizer certification training completed. While field application rates of two to three tons per acre of poultry litter are common, farmers should still have soil tests and manure tests taken so manure nutrients being applied are fully utilized by the following crop rotations.
For liquid manure applicators, examine fields for tile blowouts, soil cracks, worm holes, and any other situations that might allow manure to reach surface waters. Old clay tile that are not charted, and may have an outlet buried in the bottom of a ditch, have caused a number of manure escapes in Ohio over the years. Recent manure escapes into ditches in northwest part of the state have caused fish kills and resulted in fines being levied. Farmers and applicators need to monitor field tiles for several days after application to be sure manure does not escape with the next rainfall event.
Liquid manure application rates are limited to the moisture holding capacity of the soil or no more than a half inch or ~13,500 gallons per acre for tiled fields. Limiting application rates below legal limits can help keep more nutrients on fields. Remember, a corn-soybean rotation will remove about 120 pounds of P2O5 over two good growing seasons. That will drop your soil test phosphorus level about 6 pounds per acre. Applying high amounts of manure can rapidly raise soil test levels and result in greater losses of phosphorus from farm fields.
Incorporated liquid manure or liquid manure incorporated within 24 hours does not have a setback requirement from ditches and streams this time of year. If just surface applied, with no plan of immediate incorruption, a vegetative setback of 35 feet is recommended or a 100 foot setback if there is little or no vegetation growing in the field. These recommendations for non-permitted farms and are the rules for permitted farms.
The Western Lake Erie Basin watershed rule for surface manure application is a weather forecast saying “not greater than a 50 percent chance of a half inch or more of rain in the next 24 hours. For very heavy soils (typically Hydrologic group D) 0.25 inch of rainfall can cause runoff when combined with a half inch of liquid applied on the surface. It’s advisable to print out the weather forecast when you start applying manure so you have the needed proof if an unexpected storm drenches the area.
The rain forecast does not apply to incorporated manure. However, the soil must be fractured and disturbed when manure is applied to qualify for incorporated. Just poking holes in the soil does not qualify as incorporation. Deep incorporation of manure nutrients could help break up the phosphorus stratification issues that may be contributing to the increasing levels of dissolved phosphorus leaving Ohio farm fields.
For permitted farms, when more than 50 pounds per acre of manure nitrogen is being applied, it’s required that a field have a growing crop or cover crop be planted. In manure amounts, this could be a little as 1,500 gallons per acre of swine finishing manure, one ton of poultry litter, 3,000 gallons of dairy manure, 1,000 gallons of liquid beef manure, or five tons per acre of solid pen pack manure.
All farmers should consider utilizing cover crops with manure applications to capture the available nitrogen and turn it into organic nitrogen in the form of additional roots and stems. Livestock producers in the Western Lake Erie Basin watersheds must have a growing cover crop in the field if they intend to apply manure to snow covered or frozen soil this winter. The cover crop should cover at least 90 percent of the soil surface.
Cover crops can help livestock farmers recapture manure nutrients and conserve soil by reducing erosion. The goal is to combine nutrient recovery and protecting the environment. With weather forecasters predicting above average temperatures the remainder of October, there is still time to establish good stands of cover crops.
“I began using it in 2005 because I had to, I won’t lie,” Josh Hiemstar says in his barn office, as he gears up for the fall harvest on a 525-acre farm.
The software, called SnapPlus, was created at the University of Wisconsin department of soil science and introduced in 2005 under a state-federal mandate to reduce soil erosion and prevent runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus. These essential nutrients can over-fertilize lakes and streams, and feed the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Now, I use it because it helps me make better business decisions, better environmental decisions,” says Hiemstra. “SnapPlus is a big deal for farmers.”
“SnapPlus solves several problems at once, related to distributing manure and fertilizer efficiently while meeting guidelines for protecting groundwater and surface water,” says Laura Good, the soil scientist who has led development and testing. “The program helps to maintain crop fertility without wasting money or endangering natural resources.”
The program is used on 3.36 million acres, or about 37 percent of the state’s cropland, says Good.
The crux of SnapPlus calculates nutrient requirements for croplands and pastures. The phosphorus calculation starts with a soil test, adds phosphorus from planned fertilizer and manure applications, then subtracts phosphorus extracted by crops. The software also estimates field erosion and phosphorus runoff rates to streams and lakes.
The math may sound simple, says Good, but the real world is complex. Soils have varying structure, slope, and subsurface geology – all factors that affect whether nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen stay where needed or become water pollutants.
Conditions can change from year to year, even within a field. Cropping sequences – called rotations – can be variable and complex.
And weather is, well, weather.
Fertilizer ranks near the top in farm expenses, but if some is necessary, more is not necessarily better. And so beyond enabling farmers to heed runoff standards, SnapPlus offers a means to optimize fertility and yields, and control costs.
Any farm in Wisconsin that applies nutrients and has benefited from government cost-sharing or receives the agricultural property tax credit must write a nutrient-management plan according to state-specific guidelines, which is typically done with SnapPlus.
“These standards and restrictions would be rather difficult to follow on paper,” Good observes.
Although SnapPlus is produced by the UW–Madison department of soil science, experts from UW Cooperative Extension have contributed nutrient recommendations and algorithms.
SnapPlus automatically taps databases on soil types, municipal well locations, and streams, lakes and shallow bedrock, so it “knows” factors conducive to rapid movement to groundwater, Good says.
“It tells you, on each field, what kind of soil you have, what kind of issues you have.”
Nutrient planning is often done by hired certified crop advisors, although many counties offer training courses to farmers who want to write their own plans.
With its triple benefit of avoiding pollution, supporting yields and reducing costs, SnapPlus “is a good use of taxpayer dollars,” Hiemstra says.
“You can call the county and get support, if they can’t answer, there is a full staff in Madison. The people who are writing the program are the ones telling you how to use it, and answering your questions.”
Agriculture may not get many headlines, but technology and economics are changing fast.
“Where we are now with the economics of agriculture,” Hiemstra says, “it’s even more important for farm operators to know their costs, and manage on their own. If you as a producer don’t take ownership of the information, you may be spending more than you need to spend.”
The manure nutrients could easily replace the commercial fertilizer normally applied in advance of planting wheat. The application of fall-applied livestock manure to newly planted or growing crop can reduce nutrient losses compared to fall-applied manure without a growing crop.
Both swine and dairy manure can be used to add moisture to newly planted wheat. It’s important that the wheat seeds were properly covered with soil when planted to keep a barrier between the salt and nitrogen in the manure and the germinating wheat seed.
It’s also important that livestock producers know their soil phosphorus levels, and the phosphorus in the manure being applied, so we don’t grow soil phosphorus levels beyond what is acceptable.
If the wheat is planted at its typical one-inch depth and swine or dairy manure is surface applied there should be no problem applying 5,000 gallons per acre of swine manure or 8,000 gallons per acre of dairy manure. If the wheat is emerging when manure is being applied, there is the possibility of some burn to the wheat from swine manure. If the wheat is fully emerged, there is little concern for burning.
If incorporating manure ahead of planting wheat, try to place the manure deep enough (at least three inches) so the manure does not impact the germination and emergence of the wheat crop. Another option is to incorporate the manure and wait a few days before planting the wheat.
If incorporated, the opportunity to carry some of the manure nitrogen through the winter could allow for a reduction in the amount of topdress nitrogen needed for the wheat crop next spring.
The application of 5,000 gallons of swine finishing manure could contain 200 pounds of nitrogen, 75 pounds of P2O5 and 100 pounds of K2O. The application of 8,000 gallons of dairy manure could contain 175 pounds of nitrogen, 60 pounds of P2O5 and 150 pounds of K2O. Manure nutrient content can vary tremendously from one manure storage facilitate to another but stay reasonably consistence from the same facility year after year.
As always, print out the weather forecast when surface applying manure. Remember the “not greater than 50 percent chance of 0.5 inches of rainfall in the next 24 hours” rule in the western Lake Erie watershed.
The targeted area currently being considered is comprised of 15 eastern Wisconsin counties. They include: Brown, Calumet, Dodge, Door, Fond du Lac, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha. READ MORE
Methods of applying manure into the ground without significantly disturbing the soil were presented to area farmers at the recent summer field day sponsored by the Waupaca County Forage Council.
During the morning presentations, speakers noted that a large portion of nitrogen, about half in typical liquid dairy manure, is in ammonium or urea form and can potentially be lost to the air as ammonia if the manure is not incorporated into the soil promptly.
Historically, tillage has been the most common method of incorporation, but tillage and, to a lesser extent, standard injection reduce crop residue cover, leaving the field more susceptible to erosion.
A common goal among producers is to find new methods for applying liquid dairy manure to maximize manure N availability while maintaining crop residue cover for erosion control.One of the field-day presenters, Dan Brick, of Brickstead Dairy near Greenleaf in Brown County, has become an active conservation leader, who's committed to finding solutions that maintain environmental quality while improving soil fertility.
Through the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP), Brick invested in an additional 2.9-million-gallon concrete manure structure to contain manure and milk house waste through the winter until it can be spread safely as fertilizer in the spring on his 900 acres of crop and hay ground. READ MORE
Many hay fields are not pure alfalfa. The acidic soils of the southern and eastern parts of the state make it difficult to maintain an alfalfa or clover stand so a mixed stand of grass and alfalfa/clover is common. Stands in older fields are often just mostly grass. A grass hay crop will remove just as many nutrients per ton as an alfalfa crop. The big difference is that the annual yields from grass hay fields are usually about 1.3 tons per acre lower than alfalfa fields.
Livestock manure can be used as a fertilizer source to replace nutrients removed through hay harvest. Pen pack beef manure will contain approximately 7.9 pounds of nitrogen (mostly in the organic form), 4.4 pounds of phosphorus (P2O5) and 6.6 pounds of potash (K20) per ton according to OSU Extension bulletin 604. Note that these are older book values and your actual farm manure nutrient levels can vary depending upon the animal's ration, the amount and type of bedding material used and how manure is stored and handled. The recommendation is to sample and test manure at least on a yearly basis. This will provide a more reliable indication of the actual nutrient content of the manure on your farm. For more information about how and when to sample manure, Penn State Extension has a good publication available on-line at http://extension.psu.edu/plants/nutrient-management/educational/manure-storage-and-handling/manure-sampling-for-nutrient-management-planning.
Let's assume a livestock producer wants to use pen pack beef manure to replenish the nutrients in a hay field where he harvested three tons per acre of hay. Since alfalfa and grass hay both remove similar amounts of nutrients per ton, we can assume the three tons of hay removed per acre contained 39 pounds of P2O5 and 150 pounds of K2O. If pen pack beef manure was used to replenish these nutrients, 8.8 tons per acre would be sufficient to replace the phosphorus. However, a rate of 22.7 tons per acre would be needed to replace the potash. The 22.7 ton per acre manure application rate would result in almost 100 pounds of P2O5 being applied per acre, far more than was removed in the three tons of hay.
A farmer would need to be cautious about using this practice repeatedly and growing the soil phosphorus level. It takes about 20 pounds of phosphorus applied to a field to raise the soil test level one pound per acre or two parts per million. So if the soil test level is low, the additional phosphorus from the manure would not raise the soil phosphorus level much in a single year.
The key to using livestock manure to replace the nutrients removed through hay harvest is to get even distribution of the manure across the entire field. Having mowed hay fields as a teenager, where bedded pack manure was applied, I would strongly urge an even distribution pattern across the field. Avoid large clumps that will plug the mower or interfere with regrowth.
If you are unsure how many tons per acre your solid manure spreader applies there is a simple way to make a determination. Make a heavy plastic piece that is 56 inches by 56 inches. Fasten it to the ground with weights on the corners and apply manure across the plastic. Fold up the plastic and weigh the manure captured. Many people use a bathroom scales for this. One pound of manure captured on the plastic is equivalent to one ton of manure applied per acre. Thus, if you captured 10 pounds of manure the application rate was 10 tons per acre.
It is common for county extension offices to have farmers ask; "Can manure be applied between cuttings"? The answer is "yes". Farmers commonly use liquid swine and liquid dairy manure between cuttings to replace soil nutrients and "boost" regrowth of the forage crop in northwest Ohio. There is the potential to damage the crowns of the forage plants but most farmers seem to like the results of the manure application. Solid manure could also be applied between cuttings instead of waiting until fall to apply the manure. The manure application should take place as some as the hay is baled.
Liquid beef manure is also being used to replace nutrients in hay fields. Liquid beef manure we have sampled has contained 40 pounds nitrogen (about half in the organic form and half in the ammonium form), 35 pounds of phosphorus (P2O5) and 30 pounds of potash (K20) per 1000 gallons of product. Applied with a drag hose, this can be an excellent fertilizer for a forage.
A final cautionary note regarding manure application to forage fields: If manure is coming from a herd with animals infected by Johne's disease, that disease can be transmitted by manure to healthy cattle. According to a publication from the US Dairy Forage Research Center at Madison Wisconsin and authored by Michael Russelle and Bill Jokela, the Johne's bacterium can survive on hay. Therefore, those authors' recommendation is that in herds with Johne's, manure should not be applied as a topdressing on fields that will be harvested as dry hay.
Phosphorus is obviously of particular concern to crop farmers.
“The harmful algae blooms occurring in Lake Erie appear to be from increasing amounts of dissolved phosphorus reaching the lake,” says Glen Arnold, associate professor and field specialist in Manure Nutrient Management Systems at Ohio State University Extension. “The phosphorus in livestock manure is less likely to reach surface waters than the phosphorus in commercial fertilizer, as the phosphorus in livestock manure is slower to become soluble once applied to fields.”
However, Arnold notes that the over-application of livestock manure can raise soil phosphorus to very high levels and result in the element being lost through both surface runoff and through subsurface drainage tiles.
Arnold believes finding new ways of applying manure to growing crops and incorporating the manure more effectively could better assure the phosphorus stays put. His research on the application of manure to growing crops first started with topdressing wheat plots in Putnam County, Ohio, in 2004.
“We wanted to capture value from the nitrogen in manure and open up new windows of application for farmers, instead of them usually applying large amounts of manure in the fall after harvest,” he explains.
Arnold and his team approached swine farmers with finishing buildings for the wheat plot experiments, as swine manure has more nitrogen per gallon than dairy or beef manure. The Putnam County Extension Office and Soil & Water Conservation District collaborated on planning, flagging the replicated plots, field application and harvesting, with plots either receiving urea fertilizer or swine manure. When the results were analyzed, wheat yields under the manure treatments were equal to or greater than the urea treatment most of the time.
By 2009, Arnold, his colleagues and county extension educators in nearby counties were using swine manure to side dress corn plots.
“We removed the flotation wheels from a manure tanker and replaced them with narrow wheels so the manure tanker could follow the tractor down the cornrows,” he says. “The yield results were very positive as the manure treatments were similar to the commercial fertilizer treatments. During unusually dry growing seasons, the manure treatments out-yielded the commercial manure treatments. The same occurred during unusually wet growing seasons as well.”
In addition to the swine-finishing manure side dress plots, during the past year the team tried liquid beef manure and liquid dairy manure, enhanced with commercial nitrogen, to side dress corn plots.
“We used a manure tanker and Dietrich toolbar,” Arnold says. “The beef manure plots performed as well as the swine manure plots. The dairy manure plots also preformed very well, which opens many possibilities for dairy producers to sidedress corn in the years ahead.”
At this point, the team has also completed a third year of side dressing emerged corn with swine manure in Darke County, Ohio, using a drag hose. The drag hose was pulled across the emerged corn through the V3 stage of growth, and the manure incorporated during application using a seven-row VIT unit. Over three years, the corn side dressed with manure averaged 13 bushels per acre more than corn side dressed with urea ammonium nitrate.
In terms of cost differences between urea and manure, Arnold notes that farmers have to eventually land-apply the manure regardless of whether it’s applied to a growing crop or not.
“Capturing the nitrogen value pays for the cost of applying the manure,” he says.
He also believes a drag hose is faster, more efficient and alleviates soil compaction concerns compared to using a manure tanker. Drag hoses also provide flexibility in that the manure can be applied anytime from the day the crop is planted through the V3 stage of corn growth, a six-week window in Ohio if the corn is planted in late April.
In these experiments on application of manure during the growing season, Arnold and his colleagues never measured phosphorus runoff, but he says that if manure is applied in the fall, more than 50 percent of the nitrogen is generally lost, and the tillage to incorporate the manure at that time causes more soil erosion than application during crop growth.
Farmers do have to watch over-application of manure to growing wheat as it will lead to the wheat field blowing flat in June in Ohio. On corn, Arnold says there is nothing to stop a person from over-applying but the extra nitrogen would be wasted.
All-in-all, Arnold believes the application of manure to growing crops works very well. He says the farmers who have participated in the on-farm plots have been pleasantly surprised at how well livestock manure has worked as a sidedress nitrogen source for corn and as a top dress to wheat.
“In addition to providing nitrogen for the corn crop, the manure can also provide the phosphorus and potash needed for a two-year corn-soybean rotation without applying excess nutrients,” he says.
In order to convince as many livestock producers as possible of the economic and environmental advantages of applying more manure to growing crops and applying less manure after the fall harvest season, Arnold and his team will allow farmers to see results first-hand. Because he’s found that farmers who participated in the sidedress plots using a manure tanker are very interested in using a drag hose, Arnold has obtained funds from several companies to build two 12-row drag hose sidedress toolbars. He expects to have them available for loan during the 2017 growing season.
“The plan is to loan the toolbars to both livestock producers and commercial applicators,” he says. “We hope to loan them out to more than a dozen participants this summer.”
In recent years, biochar has been hailed by some as an alternative to manure or compost, but biochar is expensive and poor quality biochar can increase the soil's acidity, damaging crops. READ MORE
The new public, private partnership will allow farmers to more effectively apply manure by injecting it directly into the ground, reducing the amount of nutrients that run off into local waterways.
“By using this equipment, farmers will be able to cut down on soil erosion, reduce odors, and decrease the amount of phosphorus leaving their fields,” said Parisi. “Our partnership reflects a unified effort between local leaders and businesses to ensure the Yahara Watershed stays clean and healthy, while providing farmers with the innovative tools they need to succeed in an environmentally friendly way.”
In the agreement, Dane County and the Yahara Watershed Improvement Network (Yahara WINS) will each allocate up to $60,000 to purchase a manure tanker and Low Disturbance Manure Injection (LDMI) toolbar. Yahara Pride Farms will rent a tractor from Carl F. Statz and Sons Inc., a farm implement dealer based in Waunakee, to haul the tanker and LDMI bar across each participant’s property. Yahara WINS is led by the Madison Metropolitan Sewage District and will use funds from the Clean Lakes Alliance to finance its share of the endeavor.
“Yahara WINS is pleased to partner with the Yahara Pride Farm Group, Dane County and the Clean Lakes Alliance to provide opportunities for farmers to gain experience with low disturbance manure injection –an approach that will improve water quality by reducing the amount of phosphorus reaching our streams, rivers and lakes,” said Dave Taylor, consulting director for Yahara WINS.
Yahara Pride Farms is a farmer-led, nonprofit organization and was the first to bring this minimal soil disturbance technology for manure to Wisconsin farmers. To date, the program has covered over 3,600 acres of land and reduced 5,500 pounds of phosphorus on the Yahara Watershed using this manure technique. In 2016 alone, Yahara Pride Farms’ low disturbance manure injection resulted in an estimated 1,100 pounds of phosphorus savings from more than 1,200 acres of land.
“Farmers are leading progress toward collective water quality goals in the Yahara Watershed,” said Jeff Endres, chairman of Yahara Pride Farms. “Managing how nutrient-rich manure is applied to farm fields is a key component to achieving these goals.”
Last year, Dane County implemented and tracked more than 313 conservation practices and systems, resulting in 18,392 pounds of phosphorus being reduced in the Yahara Watershed. Under this new partnership, the manure injector is projected to reduce 1.5 pounds of phosphorus per acre of land each year.
Participants of the program will be charged a fee to cover operator costs, tractor rental, repair and maintenance, scheduling and insurance. To reduce participant expenses, Dane County developed a cost share program for individual farmers and custom haulers to purchase the LDMI toolbar. Currently, two cost share agreements totaling $46,495.50 have been approved to purchase the toolbar equipment.
The Yahara WINS executive committee approved the grant request to fund 50 percent of the costs for a tanker and LDMI toolbar with funds from the Clean Lakes Alliance in June. The Dane County board of supervisors is currently reviewing a resolution committing up to $60,000 in county dollars to match the committee’s funds.
Yahara Pride Farms will provide an annual report to the Dane County Land Conservation Division and Yahara WINS detailing treated field locations, number of acres covered, and pounds of phosphorus reduced. Previously, Yahara Pride Farms partnered with a local equipment dealer to provide a tanker and LDMI toolbar for individual farmers to use and gain experience with the technology.
March 29, 2017, Manitowoc, WI – At a recent forum on soil health and custom crops, two custom manure applicators who serve farms in east central Wisconsin described some of the practices designed to limit soil disturbance during the process.
Jesse Dvorachek, based near Forest Junction in Calumet County, reported that each of his two crews, using a total of 10 to 20 trucks, apply about 200 million gallons of liquid manure per year on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) farms. READ MORE
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.”
Liquid manure application in the Midwest typically happens in spring and fall each year. The majority of liquid manure application takes place using a tank or a dragline applicator, providing additional nutrients to crops.
Tank applicators transport manure from the livestock facility to agricultural fields and apply manure using a tank-mounted tool-bar. For fields that are close-by, manure can be pumped directly to the dragline-mounted tool-bar. In either case, a pre-determined application rate is used to pump manure through a manifold, which distributes manure to the application points across the tool-bar.
“Environmental regulations require producers to make sure manure is being applied to agricultural fields in accordance with their manure management plans,” said Dan Andersen, assistant professor and extension agricultural engineering specialist with Iowa State University.
Variations in tank capacities, manure densities and the presence of foam can cause the application rate to be different from the target number, as can variations in drive speed. Application rate should be verified, and both tank and dragline applicators need to be calibrated to ensure accurate application.
Both distribution of manure and calibrating the applicators are covered in a pair of new ISU Extension and Outreach publications – “Distribution of Liquid Manure Application” (AE 3600) and “Calibrating Liquid Tank Manure Applicators” (AE 3601A). Both are available through the Extension Store. A “Calibration Worksheet for Liquid Manure Tank Applicators” (AE 3601B) is also available.
Calibration of the application rate, in terms of gallons per acre applied, can be achieved using an area volume method. For applicators without automated controls, the volume of manure applied in a given pass should be determined. Knowing the density of the manure and the area covered in the pass, the application rate can be determined. Instructions for determining density and coverage area are included in publication AE 3601A.
There are manure applicators that use tractor-mounted automated flow controls to achieve accurate application rates. In these cases, flow controllers use a flow meter with an actuator to govern the flow rate and, subsequently the application rate.
“The majority of flow meters are set at the factory for their rated measurements, which can potentially be different when used for manure application,” said Kapil Arora, agricultural engineering specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “The flow meters should be verified to ensure they are providing correct flow rate readouts to the flow controls.”
Achieving calibration of the target application rates only provides an average amount applied on a per acre basis. This application rate is delivered to the manifold mounted on the tool-bar, which then distributes the manure to the application points. This distribution of the manure across the tool-bar swath should be uniform so the variability among application points is minimal. This distribution should be verified only after the calibration for the application rate has been completed.
Split manure application, manure application to soybeans, high total nitrogen testing manures, and use of the Maximum Return to Nitrogen Rate Calculator can all cause the manure application rates to be lower than what was previously being used.
“Distribution across the toolbar points can be verified by capturing the discharge from each point for a known time,” Arora said. “Care should be taken to set up the equipment as close to the field conditions as possible. Aim for as low a variation as possible in the captured discharge so that better distribution is achieved across the toolbar swath.”
Kapil Arora is an agricultural and biosystems engineering specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Daniel Andersen is an agricultural and biosystems engineer, also with ISU Extension.
January 18, 2017 – The Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center has partnered with the Manure & Soil Health team to present four roundtables aimed at improving knowledge and understanding about the role of manure in soil health.
The four, hour-long roundtables will consist of a panel discussion with two to three experts who will be asked to summarize their current understanding of each roundtable topic. Each panel will also include a practitioner who will share perspective on critical information needs of farmers and advisors and field experiences relative to use of manure. Panels will be moderated to encourage interaction with audience. Roundtable participants will be invited to ask questions of panelists and share expertise and experience through polling pods and a chat box.
All of the roundtables start at 11 a.m. CT (noon ET) and in the following order:
- Feb. 9, 2017 – Manure & soil health testing (Dr. Bianca Moebius-Clune, Donna Brandt, Russell Dresbach, Geoff Ruth)
- Feb. 16, 2017 – Manure & soil biology (Rhae Drijber, Michele Soupir, Dr. Jonathan Lundgren)
- Feb.23, 2017 – Manure & soil erosion, runoff, and losses (Nathan Nelson, John Gilley, Mike Kucera, Andy Scholting)
- March 9, 2017 – Manure & cover crops (Tim Harrigan, Barry Fischer, Heidi Johnson, Sarah Carlson)
Attendees are asked to register for the dates that correspond to the topics they are interested in. After registering, a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting will be sent.
If a microphone and speakers are available on the computer being used, phone line participation is not needed. For those new to Zoom, three short videos may prove helpful:
January 18, 2017, Lincoln, NB – This easy-to-use record keeping calendar for livestock operations that keeps track of manure related records is available to all livestock producers.
The calendar can be used by all sizes of livestock operations and includes all records required for operations permitted for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). It has been approved by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) and recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a valuable resource for livestock producers.
“It’s a simple and organized way to keep monthly records in one place,” says Derek Schreiter, NDEQ inspector.
To view an electronic sample of the calendar, go to http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/ec136.pdf .
One example of the kinds of records the calendar can help you maintain is found here: http://go.unl.edu/3cg2
Records of rainfall, storage depth gauge levels, and storage and equipment inspections are an important aspect of required manure and runoff storage records for a NDEQ permit. These and other records will help you gain value from manure nutrients and document your stewardship of the environment.
Farmers facing tight markets can impact their profitability by understanding the top five criteria in manure management decisions, according to experts at the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) recent manure management workshop.
More than 60 farmers attended the event to learn how to better manage their fertilizer source on and off the farm.
“The first thing you’ve got to do is determine how much manure you need and where it should be applied,” noted Abe Sandquist, founder of Natural Fertilizer Services. Addressing manure needs is a game of building organic matter and maintaining soil fertility. This balance can be achieved by comparing yield history, manure sampling and soil testing.
“Soil testing is kind of like figuring the odds of your fertility,” said Sandquist. “When you’re fertilizing in a low soil test field, you’ve got a higher chance of getting a yield response that’s profitable.”
Secondly, Sandquist said farmers must determine what equipment they will use based on holding capacity, density of their manure source and the range it can be hauled economically.
Dan Andersen, an agricultural and biosystems engineering assistant professor of Iowa State University, noted that manure management decisions should make manure “logistically cheaper to move and more nutrient rich.”
Although solid manure is easier to transport, liquid manure generally retains more nitrogen, especially if it is stored in a deep pit rather than a lagoon. According to Andersen, manure storage systems of the future will likely be designed to retain even higher nutrient levels.
Another component of manure management includes precision application. Thanks to advancements in GPS technology, manure application tools have allowed farmers to better target their acres using variable rate control and yield analyses. The trick to benefiting from these advanced tools also involves optimum timing of application.
“Immediate injection or incorporation will reduce ammonia volatilization and retain 95 to 100 percent of the nitrogen content in the soil,” said Dr. Jim Friedericks, outreach and education advisor at AgSource Laboratories. “Broadcasting or surface application will reduce retention from 70 to 90 percent.”
Lastly, alternative options such as selling manure or composting give livestock farmers flexibility in managing their fertilizer source. However, depending on the size of the farm, certain rules and regulations must be followed to ensure land and water resources are safeguarded. Farmers who have questions about these guidelines can contact the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers for a free and confidential consultation.
CSIF is a non-profit organization that assists livestock farmers who want help interpreting rules and regulations, guidance on good site locations for barns, counsel on enhancing neighbor relations and tips on how to protect the environment at no cost. It was created as a joint partnership involving the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Egg Council, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation and Midwest Dairy Association.
Haley Banwart is an assistant field specialist with the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers.
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Professional Nutrient Applicators Association of Wisconsin Annual MeetingThu Jan 18, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Nutrient Recovery & Digester SummitTue Jan 23, 2018 @ 8:30AM - 03:00PM
Iowa Pork CongressWed Jan 24, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
2018 International Poultry ExpoMon Jan 29, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Iowa Power Farming ShowTue Jan 30, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Southern Farm ShowWed Jan 31, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM