Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas F. Burke Jr. decided to grant motions for summary judgment for the defendants and against a long list of plaintiffs who are landowners and neighbors of the hog operation. READ MORE
"Livestock are significant emission contributors," says Dr. Sean McGinn of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, a long-time researcher in the emissions area. "That's quite clear and generally recognized by the agricultural research community."
Fifty to 60 percent of feed nitrogen is lost as ammonia at the feedlot. Eight to 10 percent of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions are from agriculture and 90 percent of the atmospheric ammonia comes from cattle manure. Ammonia in the atmosphere is an economic loss because the nitrogen fertilizer potential of manure is lowered. And it's a health hazard. Ammonia mixes with acid to form fine aerosols, the white haze seen in confined airsheds.
"We know beef feedlots are 'hot spots' of ammonia emissions on the landscape, but we didn't know as much about the dynamics of ammonia emissions from feedlots. For example we didn't have real numbers from actual feedlots on how much is emitted, how much is deposited on nearby soil and how much re-emission occurs when that happens."
That's what McGinn and his colleague Dr. Tom Flesch (University of Alberta) set out to understand. Backed by funding from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA), a two-year project investigated the fate of nitrogen in feedlots, what amount is deposited on land downwind and how much is carried long distances.
The other part of their research involves measuring methane and nitrous oxide, two prominent greenhouse gasses. Methane is produced by cattle due to the anaerobic digestion of feed in the cow's rumen and both nitrous oxide and methane come from stored manure in the pens.
The research produced significant results on several fronts from techniques to measure on a commercial scale, to new information on transfer, deposits and re-emission to nearby lands, to related opportunities for mitigation and management.
New measuring techniques
One major positive outcome was the development of new measuring technology adapted from what has been used successfully for measuring flare emissions in the oil and gas industry.
Using open path lasers that move over the feedlot and calculate concentration and wind characteristics, the system is able to measure emissions regardless of wind direction.
Measuring in real world situations offers some significant advantages to the more standard research protocols of using animals in individual chambers to measure emissions, says McGinn.
This new technique evaluates the feedlot as a whole, which means it can consider whole-unit management aspects which impact emissions. Also, by keeping animals in their natural environment and not interfering with them in any way, the laser approach promises more accurate, commercial scale results.
On a bigger picture level, this means actual feedlot emission numbers can be used in greenhouse gas assessments, an improvement from past practices of using estimates from global sources.
Early results show surprises
One of the surprises learned from this study was the fact that a significant fraction of ammonia was deposited on the land adjacent to the feedlot and, once deposited, how much was reemitted into the atmosphere.
"Our results illustrate the dynamics of reactive ammonia in the vicinity of a beef cattle feedlot," says McGinn. "It confirmed that a large portion of the nitrogen fed as crude protein is volatized from the feedlot's cattle manure. In the local vicinity of a feedlot, both ammonia deposition (14 percent of the emitted ammonia) and reemission occurred. That 14 percent is a large amount considering a typical feedlot emits one to two tonnes of ammonia per day."
There was a change in the soil captured ammonia that decreased with distance from the feedlot (50 percent over 200 m).
Logically it follows that quantifying the local dry ammonia deposition to surrounding fields is required when applying feedlot-based emissions to a large-scale emissions inventory, says McGinn. Failure to do that could mean badly misrepresenting the real situation.
"We need better emissions numbers to anchor effective public policy and fairly represent the feedlot industry in that data pool," says McGinn. "It's important to have research done before policy is set. The U.S. cattle feeding industry already has specific ammonia emission targets in place."
Related scientific paper here: "Ammonia Emission from a Beef Cattle Feedlot and Its Dry Local Deposition and Re-Emission."
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.
February 24, 2017, Central Saanich, BC – Stanhope Dairy Farm Ltd. and the District of Central Saanich have agreed to a settlement, allowing the operation to continue its farming practices.
“We are satisfied with this being an outcome. I know that there are some residents who have different feelings on this. What I would say is that the municipality weighed all the information and came to this conclusion and I think that the conditions placed are ones that we’re going to continue to observe and make sure that the conditions are honoured,” said Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor. READ MORE
February 24, 2017, Wellington, FL – Palm Beach County commissioners approved a land use change that would allow a horse manure recycling facility to operate between Belle Glade and Wellington, the epicenter of the county’s equestrian industry.
The land use change will be transmitted to state officials for review and come back to commissioners for final approval in March or April when Horizon Compost hopes to get approval of its zoning application for a facility that would be located on 32 acres eight miles east of Belle Glade and eight miles west of Wellington. READ MORE
February 6, 2017, Champaign, IL — Illinois Manure Share, created by the University of Illinois, is a manure exchange program that brings gardeners and landscapers searching for organic materials for use in composting or application in contact with livestock owners.
The program, initially intended to help commercial farmers find markets for their manure, has evolved over time. Today, most of the manure providers are horse farms and many of the buyers are from the Chicago area. READ MORE
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.
January 16, 2017, Baltimore, MD – Supporters say the Perdue AgriRecycle facility a few miles from the Maryland state line is one solution for chicken farmers on the Eastern Shore who need to get rid of manure.
Along with the chicken litter, the Perdue facility receives hundreds of thousands of state taxpayer dollars each year. A state program reimburses farmers, brokers and poultry companies for half of their costs to haul manure around Delmarva and beyond. Perdue is one of the largest beneficiaries. READ MORE
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.
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
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
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.
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
November 21, 2016, Lancaster, PA — Pennsylvania poultry experts are planning to work with manure haulers to find ways to cinch up biosecurity.
Pennsylvania’s poultry industry has done a lot of disease response planning, but collaboration with manure haulers has so far been a missing link, said Sherrill Davison, director of the avian pathology lab at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center. READ MORE
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.
Prestage AgEnergy of North Carolina didn’t set out originally to build the largest co-gen plant to run solely on turkey litter. As vice president Michael Pope says, sometimes these things just “kind of evolve.”
Prestage began seriously considering a poultry litter project as far back as 2011. The company put in time doing its homework – and looking at various systems and why certain systems do and don’t work when dealing with poultry.
“Poultry litter doesn’t have the same BTU value as wood. It’s slightly less,” explains Pope. “But because litter is wood-based, it’s a much more traditional fuel source to work with.”
There was also a mandate to utility companies in North Carolina to purchase a certain amount of renewable energy from swine, poultry, wind and solar.
“We started looking at ways to address the mandate to utilities, and also address any potential issues that may come down the road with poultry litter and land application,” says Pope. “Where we’re located – Sampson and Duplin County – there’s a lot of litter that has to be land applied.
In addition, Prestage had successfully used wood chip boilers in the past, and in particular Hurst boilers.
“We’d had great success with their [Hurst] equipment and their products, and that’s part of what led to us collaborating with them on how we could make this work with poultry litter.”
Hurst Boiler, out of Coolidge, Georgia, was also a good choice because of its long history in the energy business. The international manufacturer of a complete line of gas, oil, coal and hybrid biomass fuel-fired steam and hot water boilers has been operating since 1967.
When Prestage initially went to Hurst with its idea, Hurst wasn’t sure if their boilers would handle 100 percent poultry litter, but an unexpected event occurred in Guatemala that would change the course of events.
During a biomass shortage, a Guatemalan poultry company began fueling their Hurst wood chip boiler with chicken litter. As expected, the boiler ran into some issues, but it continued to operate.
“It was a very manual, and very crude process, but it demonstrated that even without treating the litter like we should, these boiler systems could handle poultry litter,” says Pope.
Creating the innovative boiler system for Prestage became a team effort. Hurst made some slight modifications to its system and Prestage made modifications to how it would handle its litter prior to it reaching the boiler. The result was a 1500 HP biomass boiler, the largest in the United States, fueled 100 percent on poultry litter.
To run the boiler 24/7 will require approximately 175 tons of turkey litter per day. Prestage doesn’t see that as a problem. Pope says that not only is the company located in a good area for procuring litter, the industry is expanding in the region.
Crews will go out, as normally scheduled, to approximately 60 turkey farms to do a complete clean out of litter or a “cake” cleaning under the feed and water lines. The litter will be transported back to the facility. And, Pope notes, that although the boiler can run on chicken or turkey litter, the company is currently just focused on turkey litter.
At the Prestage facility, the litter will be brought to a litter building. There the litter will be blended for consistency – nutrient type and moisture content – and then conveyed to the boiler.
“Moisture content is key for utilizing litter in the boiler, and making sure that it gets a fairly consistent product coming in,” says Pope. “Our focus is power production and providing steam for our feed mill to get them off of natural gas. But we’re also focused on using the ash as a fertilizer, as it’s high in phosphorous and potassium.”
Storage is a big piece of the project – both for litter and ash.
While the litter is stored in a large covered facility, the ash will be stored in an enclosed facility because once wet it tends to harden like concrete. The storage space for the ash is large because Prestage anticipates seasonal use by famers.
Prestage doesn’t see itself going into the “Prestage labeled fertilizer bag” business.
“We are teaming up with a very successful regional fertilizer company. We will be using their existing sales channels, and they’re very excited and absolutely believe they can move every ton of ash that we produce.”
The facility will be up and running in December 2016 and Prestage is estimating they will annually produce the equivalent of 95 GWh of power and 9,000 tons of quality ash.
Pope says the nutrient-rich ash product not only gives the company options, but farmers as well.
“The ash can go to fertilizer manufacturers. It can also go straight into field application for the farmers,” says Pope. “That’s nice because a lot of farmers have used poultry litter in land application for their crops, but don’t always get consistent spread and can’t precision farm. So, instead of using litter, they sell us the litter and with the money we put in their pockets, they can take that and buy traditional fertilizer that allows them to precision farm, get better yields on their crops and give the fields exactly what they need.”
The challenges have been exactly what one would expect with a first-of-its-kind system – figuring out exactly what the boiler is capable of, and the make up of the litter to ensure it functions properly and efficiently.
“We’ve learned it’s expensive being innovative. But it’s good, because what it really does at the end of the day is benefit all the poultry growers,” says Pope.
“Growers have to get rid of the litter and land application has been an issue depending on time of the year and the weather. Currently, growers may or may not be able to get the litter out of their houses and land applied. There are certain areas that may be rich in phosphate, where you don’t want to put litter on the ground. Also, farmers never know what the EPA is going to do, and what sort of challenges they may have to face environmentally. What this system does is provide another outlet – a year-round outlet – for poultry growers to send their litter for processing.”
One challenge Prestage didn’t face was finding an experienced crew to run the new facility. An older power plant in the area wasn’t able to successfully complete a conversion from wood chips to poultry litter, and had to shut down. The timing was such that Prestage was able to step in and hire a significant number of people from that facility to operate theirs.
“We’ve got operators experienced in running a power plant and using a wood based product. And they do have some experience from testing poultry litter at their facility. We couldn’t be more blessed,” says Pope. “It was unfortunate that a facility had to close, but we were able to pick up the best of the best to operate this facility.”
Prestage is proud that it hasn’t rushed into this new area, and that it has put in the time and energy to ensure the road it’s taking and the technology sued will be successful.
“Because [Prestage] was new to this arena and because it was all poultry litter, we didn’t want to get out there, fall flat, and it be a failure and a disappointment to the industry,” says Pope. “We want to make sure it works and that it was long-term and that it would create avenues for others or ourselves to expand on what we’re doing.
“We’ve taken our bumps and we got our lumps and bruises, and we know that going forward, we can do this more cost-effectively. I definitely think that this can be replicated at better cost and can provide more benefit to growers and producers in the industry as a whole.”
Does that mean Prestage may build more of these facilities?
“There’s definitely the possibility of putting in additional plants,” says Pope. “We always evaluate what comes along and what makes sense, and we try to stay true to who we are as a company and focus on what we do well. We’re a very successful national pork and poultry company. We’re very good at live production and very good at poultry processing, so getting into power generation and fertilizer production is a new realm, but we’ve got 30-plus years of success behind us and we wouldn’t step out and do these types of things if we weren’t positive we’d be successful
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:
- Elevated earthen pad to eliminate ponding of water at the storage site
- Extraneous drainage diverted around the storage site
- 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:
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World Pork Expo 2017Wed Jun 07, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Wisconsin Farm Technology Days 2017Tue Jul 11, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
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Dakotafest 2017Tue Aug 15, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
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