Field Crops
July 17, 2017, Madison, WI – Dane County is teaming up with local organizations, businesses and farmers to continue phosphorus reduction efforts in the Yahara Watershed, County Executive Joe Parisi announced recently.

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.

Published in Manure Application
Beef and dairy farmers obviously want to keep as much nitrogen as they can in the soil after they apply any type of manure to their fields, but there aren’t many recommendations out there about whether more N is retained through applying raw dairy manure or digestate (from anaerobic digesters).
Published in Other

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

Published in Dairy

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.”

The development of the Illinois Manure Rate Calculator was provided by funding from the Illinois Soybean Association check off funds and the Illinois Pork Producers Association.

Published in Swine

 

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.

 

 

Published in Other

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:

Published in Other

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.

The calendar is available for free by contacting Leslie Johnson ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) or NDEQ. If you have a 2016 calendar, you may also mail in the postcard found at the end of the calendar to get your free copy of the 2017 calendar. Calendars are good through January 2018. On-line orders can also be made at http://go.unl.edu/nm.

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.

Published in Swine

 

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.

 

 

 

Published in Other

January 2, 2017, Columbus, OH — The Ohio State University Extension has four nutrient management plan writers who will be on hand on select days this winter to work with farmers to prepare a free nutrient management plan.

The writers will work with any grain/vegetable/crop producers and/or non-CAFO livestock producers who can provide information including soil tests, implement details, crop rotation and yield goals and farm maps. READ MORE

Published in Swine

December 20, 2016, Lincoln, NE – Eight Nebraska Extension offices across the state will offer workshops in January and February providing livestock and crop farmers with information on how to turn manure nutrients into better crop yields while protecting the environment.

Livestock producers with livestock waste control facility permits received or renewed since April 1998 must be certified. READ MORE

Published in Beef

December 9, 2016, Carroll, IA — Abe Sandquist deals with manure for a living. Sandquist, who operates Natural Fertilizer Services in Woodbine, says manure is a valuable resource that must be handled properly.

It must be handled with care both because it provides important nutrients that shouldn’t be wasted and also because there are risks to the public and to the farmer if it is not handled the right way.

Speaking to a group of farmers at a recent meeting sponsored by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF), Sandquist talked about the importance of manure management plans. READ MORE

Published in Swine

December 8, 2016, Rossburg, OH – When Ohio farmer Tom Harrod first heard about sidedressing hog manure, he was skeptical.

He went to a county extension program after talking to some farmers about their use of hog manure on growing corn, then he decided to give it a try. After achieving good yields without using commercial fertilizer, he became sold on the practice. Now, Harrod says, it’s driving profits in his operation. READ MORE

Published in Swine

 

Each year, more than 14 million tons of chicken litter is generated in the U.S. Studies have shown that using poultry litter to fertilize crops can be as effective as using synthetic fertilizers.

In a new study, researchers at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service have calculated how much chicken litter farmers need to apply to cotton crops to maximize profits.

“Most research focuses on the amount of poultry litter needed to maximize crop yields,” says Haile Tewolde, lead author of the study. “We wanted to know if aiming for maximum yield always makes economic sense for farmers.”

Tewolde and his colleagues found that it doesn’t. Using less chicken litter than what was needed to maximize crop yields actually increased profits for farmers. Profits increased even though crop yields were lower.

It might appear that higher crop yields would lead to higher profits. But using more fertilizer also increases costs for farmers. The researchers predicted that once an optimal amount of fertilizer had been applied to crops, any more would raise costs more than profits.

The study was conducted in two farms in Mississippi. Researchers applied varying amounts of chicken litter as fertilizer on replicated plots then compared yield and profitability. They also compared the use of synthetic fertilizers and chicken litter.

They found that chicken litter applications over a certain level did not result in net economic gains. Instead, it led to economic losses even though yields were somewhat higher.

Maximum cotton yields were achieved by applying between 9,000 to 12,000 pounds of chicken litter per acre. In contrast, applying about 7,000 pounds of chicken litter per acre each year was enough to maximize profits.

The researchers also confirmed studies that showed chicken litter to be as effective – sometimes more so – than synthetic fertilizers.

If farmers can use less poultry litter and still maximize profits, pollution can be managed more effectively.

 

 

 

 

Published in Poultry

 

Poultry producers in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and other areas of the United States and Canada are dealing with added nutrient management regulations on a continuous basis. Insight into best practices in stockpiling and application is critical.

Dr. Peter Tomlinson and agronomy graduate student Barrett Smith are now two years into a large research project evaluating improved storage sites for stockpiling of poultry litter for application to crop land. Dr. Tomlinson has been an assistant professor and extension specialist for environmental quality at Kansas State University since 2011 and his interest in studying manure and nutrient management began during his undergraduate years at the University of Connecticut.  

“Poultry producers in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma continue to face nutrient management regulations,” Dr. Tomlinson notes. “Kansas row crop producers in the southeast corner of the state are looking for cost-effective sources of N, P, and K and have found that poultry litter can cost effective way to meet their P, K and a portion of their N requirements. However, before the litter is applied it must be stored, and stored properly. The keys to a good storage site are that it’s accessible in all-weather conditions, is at least 300 feet away from water, has the ability to exclude extraneous drainage, and has an adequate buffer area before the runoff reaches water.”

This is exactly what Dr. Tomlinson has been studying, and he uses the word “encouraging” to describe his and Smith’s preliminary research findings from the last two years.

“Our initial look at the data is encouraging based on flow-weighted mean concentrations of run-off nutrients,” he explains. “We are in the process of calculating total load losses from the pad and buffer, which will allow us to determine if we are retaining the nutrients lost from the pad in the buffer area.”

From previous research and experience in small feedlot design, a chicken litter storage site evaluation sheet [agronomy.k-state.edu/extension/environmental-quality/poultry_litter/index.html] and improved storage site specifications have been developed by Herschel George – Kansas State Research and Extension watershed specialist – and Dr. Tomlinson, with input from state agency personnel, the Kansas Farm Bureau and local watershed restoration and protection strategy groups. Dr. Tomlinson says the evaluation tool can be used to identify suitable locations for developing an improved storage site as well locating suitable locations for short-term in field storage of poultry litter. The lowest score possible (lowest risk possible of detrimental runoff) is desirable.

The general guidelines for litter storage sites include:

  1. Elevated earthen pad to eliminate ponding of water at the storage site
  2. Extraneous drainage diverted around the storage site
  3. From four- to six-inches of agricultural lime or equivalent added to provide an elevated level pad to store poultry litter

Year-round access to the storage site is also critical, says Dr. Tomlinson.

“In conversations with poultry litter brokers/transporters, they have indicated that they really like good all-weather access of the service entrances. What we mean by ‘all-weather’ access is access from a gravel road whereby a semi-truck with a 40-foot trailer can access the pad, even when weather conditions are rainy and or soil conditions are wet and might cause the semi to get stuck.”

Dr. Tomlinson notes that when the popularity of poultry litter increased in southeastern Kansas because fertilizer prices went up, one of the major issues was fear of getting stuck. He explains that drivers would only back the trailer into the field. By the time they finished off-loading the litter, the end of the pile was near or in the road ditch, and/or the trailer had left ruts where runoff was funneled directly into the ditch.

Dr. Tomlinson adds that producers have found the agricultural lime base of the storage pad is helpful when they are loading the manure for spreading because it gives a visual indicator that they have reach the bottom of the pile.

Farmers also need to exclude extraneous drainage from their poultry litter storage sites by limiting water from a higher landscape position from entering the site, obviously because adding water to the runoff that’s already being filtered through the buffer is not desirable.

“This typically involves constructing an earthen berm, during the pad construction building phase, that directs water that would normally run onto the pad away from, and around, the pad,” Dr. Tomlinson explains. “The other option is to find storage locations sites that are at the top/crest of a landscape position such as the top of a hill. The key here is minimizing the water that has to be treated through the buffer to just that which is coming from the storage pad.”

In terms of best practices in creating a sufficient buffer between the storage area and natural bodies of surface water such as streams, Dr. Tomlinson says the storage site location should be at least 300 feet away. The distance from the pad to the edges of occasionally or frequently-flooded soil should be factored in as well (on the storage site evaluation sheet, the greater the distance, the lower the score).

“We have also given different buffer types different values on the evaluation sheet,” explains Dr. Tomlinson. “Dense grass is a more efficient buffer than crop ground, for example. However, this is coupled with the buffer size calculation. So if you have crop ground present, you can reduce the score (risk) by increasing the buffer size. If the area is limited in size, then establishing a grass buffer would reduce your score.”  

The project will be continuing for two more years. Although Dr. Tomlinson has only studied storage of broiler chicken litter, he anticipates that the principles and best management practices would be the same for turkey litter.

Kansas State University Soil Science Professor Dan Sweeney and colleagues have compared the application of fertilizer and turkey litter to sorghum grown in clay pan soils (common in Kansas) and found that application of litter is a viable option. At the eight-leaf stage, there were no significant differences between fertilizer and/or turkey litter treatments.

“I haven’t done any price comparisons,” Dr. Sweeney says. “Pricing can certainly be important to producers, but with swings in fertilizer pricing and maybe litter pricing too, it can vary whether it is a cost savings to use poultry litter or commercial fertilizer.”

However, Dr. Sweeney says applying turkey litter annually to clay pan soils must be done carefully.

“Poultry manure has a greater ratio of P to N in comparison to other manures, so if poultry litter application is based on the crop’s N needs instead of its P needs, P can be greatly over-applied.”

Dr. Sweeney and colleagues have also studied nutrient run-off from application of turkey litter versus fertilizer. He found that run-off rates from fertilizer were usually lower than from N-based, and similar to P-based, turkey litter applications.

“Incorporation of the litter reduced the nutrient losses in runoff, but it didn’t always make any significant difference,” he explains. “Applying a lot of litter will build up soil P levels, and annual P runoff losses can accelerate when soil P values are very high.”

The chicken litter storage site evaluation sheet is available here:

http://www.agronomy.k-state.edu/extension/environmental-quality/poultry_litter/index.html.

 

 

 

Published in Poultry

November 9, 2016, Elmira, Ont – An Ontario farmer going the organic route posted a video showing how he refills the tank in his manure dispenser – with a toilet mounted to the top.

The Elmira farmer posted a video online showing a tractor pulling his massive manure tank across some land that required fertilizing. READ MORE

Published in Other

October 25, 2016, Boonsboro, MD — “Nutrient management is alive and well in Maryland,” according to University of Maryland Extension agent Jeff Semler. One aspect of nutrient management is manure injection, which was featured during a recent field day at Debaugh Dairy Farm in Boonsboro.

The field day was funded in part by a grant from the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bay’s Trust Fund, and attracted more than 150 people, most of them farmers. READ MORE

Published in Dairy

October 24, 2016, Annapolis, MD – Due to a late harvest and lack of adequate storage for liquid manure, combined with favorable soil conditions, the Maryland Department of Agriculture has extended two key deadlines for nutrient applications this fall.

On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the deadline for all nutrient applications – including commercial fertilizer and poultry litter – has been extended from Nov. 1 to Nov. 15 to allow farmers more time to fertilize crops that will be planted later this fall. The Nov. 15 deadline is consistent with the nutrient cut-off date that farmers are required follow in all other areas of the state. After this date, farmers will be prohibited from spreading commercial fertilizer and stackable manure on fields until March 1.

To allow farmers extra time to empty their waste storage structures in preparation for winter, the MDA also has extended the deadline for the fall application of liquid manure on dairy farms and other livestock operations from Nov. 15 to Dec. 3. After this date, farmers will not be able to spread manure on their fields until March 1. The extension does not apply to dry, stackable manure or poultry litter.

Farmers or nutrient applicators with questions should call their nutrient management consultant or regional nutrient management specialist. The headquarters telephone number is 410-841-5959.

Published in Swine

October 13, 2016, There are more chickens in the United States than people in the entire world. Raising huge numbers of chickens generates large quantities of waste. This waste includes feces, feather, and bedding materials – collectively called chicken litter.

Each year, more than 14 million tons of chicken litter is generated in the U.S. Other poultry – such as turkeys, ducks, and geese – also contribute litter. Poultry litter is often recycled as manure by farmers. Studies have shown that using poultry litter to fertilize crops, such as cotton, can be as effective as using synthetic fertilizers.

In a new study, researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service have calculated how much chicken litter farmers need to apply to cotton crops to maximize profits.

"Most research focuses on the amount of poultry litter needed to maximize crop yields," says Haile Tewolde, lead author of the study. "We wanted to know if aiming for maximum yield always makes economic sense for farmers."

Tewolde and his colleagues found that it doesn't. Using less chicken litter than what was needed to maximize crop yields actually increased profits for farmers. Profits increased even though crop yields were lower.

It might appear that higher crop yields would lead to higher profits. But using more fertilizer also increases costs for farmers. The researchers predicted that once an optimal amount of fertilizer had been applied to crops, any more would raise costs more than profits.

The study was conducted in two farms in Mississippi. The researchers applied varying amounts of chicken litter as fertilizer on replicated farm plots. Then, they compared yield and profitability between the seven plots. They also compared the use of synthetic fertilizers and chicken litter.

They found that chicken litter applications over a certain level did not result in net economic gains. Instead, it led to economic losses even though yields were somewhat higher.

Maximum cotton yields were achieved by applying between 9,000 to 12,000 pounds of chicken litter per acre. In contrast, applying about 7,000 pounds of chicken litter per acre each year was enough to maximize profits.

The researchers also confirmed studies that showed chicken litter to be as effective – sometimes more so – than synthetic fertilizers.

Poultry litter contains high levels of nitrogen, an important nutrient for plants. It also contains other minerals needed by crops, including phosphates and potash. Using poultry litter as manure also recycles a waste product and can benefit the environment.

However, using too much poultry litter can cause environmental pollution. Nitrogen and phosphorus in the poultry litter can dissolve in runoff from storms. These dissolved nutrients can pollute surface and ground waters. If farmers can use less poultry litter and still maximize profits, pollution can be managed more effectively.

"Ten to 15 years ago it was not common to use poultry litter as fertilizer for row crops such as cotton," says Tewolde.

Today, there is increasing acceptance of poultry litter as fertilizer, including in commercial farms. But research on the use of poultry litter as fertilizer is not often geared towards maximizing profit in larger, commercial farms.

"This is the first comprehensive study looking at chicken litter use and profitability in commercial farms," says Tewolde. "We are the first to identify ways to calculate optimal rates of applying chicken litter manure and maximize earnings at this scale of farming."

One benefit of conducting the study on commercial fields is that "farmers can start applying our findings straightaway," says Tewolde.

Though the study was conducted in Mississippi, it has wider implications.

"The approach we use to determine optimal rates of chicken litter application will be applicable in other cotton-growing areas around the country," says Tewolde.

Tewolde's research has been featured in Crop Science.

Published in Poultry

October 21, 2016, Columbus, OH – A new app from Ohio State University allows growers to compare the effectiveness of different management decisions within fields. The aim, in part, is to improve water quality throughout the state.

Called Ohio State PLOTS, the free app allows growers, as well as consultants and others who support growers, to design replicated plot layouts by creating on-farm trials that can compare hybrids, seeding populations, fertilizer rates and nutrient management systems, among other practices and inputs, said John Fulton, precision agriculture specialist for Ohio State University Extension.

The app allows users to digitally compare various treatments within their fields to determine the best management plan for their fields, before extending financial or labor resources, he said.

Fulton, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering in Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, said the app was designed as a tool to help improve water quality in Ohio by allowing users to fine-tune nutrient management more accurately and reliably for a farm operation and by encouraging on-farm studies.

“The app is a means where growers can set up trials specific to nutrient management to allow them to see what management decisions best impact their farm and offer the best financial and fertility decisions,” he said. “Users can fine-tune their nutrient management and maximize profits, all while minimizing environmental concerns.

“The app is a great way to help growers ensure their farm remains productive and profitable, as well as aiding in making smarter choices for cleaner water.”

The app, which is available for both Apple and Android devices, includes a random number generator that removes human error when developing plot layouts. The app allows users to define an experiment that compares various response parameters such as yield, stand counts, crop health and varieties, Fulton said.

“The app statistically analyzes these parameters,” he said. “Without having to be a statistician, users can review the mean or average comparisons within the summary report and determine the best fit for their farm management strategy.”

The report details information the user has entered regarding a specific trial, notes and photos they’ve taken throughout the growing season, and statistically analyzes parameters, Fulton said. The report can be shared with crop consultants and agronomists through the app. Users can also choose to keep the report private and stored in the cloud or exported as a CSV file to be used in programs such as Excel and Access, he said.

“The app does the statistical setup and analysis for you,” Fulton said. “It helps growers in implementing nutrient management strategies that are a win for their business operations and a win for environmental practices.”

The app can be downloaded free by searching for “Ohio State Plots” in the App Store and Google Play Store. More information on the app can be found at fabe.osu.edu/programs/precision-ag/other.

Published in Other

October 12, 2016, Bismark, ND – I would like to look past harvest today and discuss manure application and valuation to give you something to ruminate on while sitting in the combine.

Rate of manure application will vary depending on crop nutrient needs, soil type, and the manure nutrient concentration and availability. READ MORE

Published in Beef
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