Research
Spring in America's heartland is often wet. That makes its soil too soft for planting. One solution to that issue is tile drainage. Growers insert a series of pipes (drain tiles) under their fields, which drains water from the soil into nearby streams and lakes.
Published in Other
It’s a beautiful spring day as you drive along a country road. The sun is out and your windows are rolled down when suddenly an offensive odor hits you right in the nostrils. Someone hit a skunk. What is it about this smell that makes it so offensive? Does this have any relation to the odor of livestock manure?
Published in Air quality
Gypsum recycled from manufacturing and construction waste has gained popularity as a bedding source for the dairy industry. Its proponents cite affordability, increased moisture absorption, low bacteria growth and soil benefits as reasons for its use.
Published in Manure Handling
Want to know more about your environmental footprint? Get additional information about operational costs? University of Minnesota Extension specialist, Erin Cortus and extension educators, Diane DeWitte, Jason Ertl, and Sarah Schieck are looking to work with producers in confidentially assessing their own operations using The Pig Production Environmental Footprint Calculator - a tool developed with support from and maintained by the National Pork Board.
Published in Swine
Beef and dairy farmers around the world are looking for ways to reduce methane emissions in their herds and cut greenhouse gas emissions – a global priority. To help meet this goal, researchers from Canada and Australia teamed-up for a three-year study to find the best feeding practices that reduce methane emissions while supporting profitable dairy and beef cattle production.
Published in Air quality
Add just enough fertilizer, and crops thrive. Add too much, and you may end up with contaminated surface and groundwater.

Excess nutrients from farms can be transported to groundwater reservoirs by water starting at the surface and flowing through soil. But the flow of water through soil is a "highly dynamic process," says Genevieve Ali, a researcher at the University of Manitoba. "It can vary from year to year, season to season, or even rainstorm to rainstorm."

It can also fluctuate depending on soil type and even if organic additions, like manure, are applied.

Ali is lead author of a new study that shows water infiltrates deeper into cracking clay (vertisolic soils) when liquid hog manure is applied.

The study also showed that even though water infiltration went deeper in the presence of manure, it did not reach depths of 39 inches (100 cm). That's how deep tile drains–designed to remove excess subsurface water–are typically installed in the study region.

"This observation challenges previous studies, which showed that cracks in clay soils can promote the travel of water and associated contaminants from the soil surface into tile drains," says Ali. "Our study suggests that not all clay-rich soils behave the same."

The researchers focused on vertisols because they are present in large regions of North America. "They are common in agricultural plains, where excess nutrients may be common due to intensive farming," Ali says.

But knowledge gaps remain about soil water flow in vertisols, especially with organic additions.

Water can flow through soil in different ways. 'Matrix flow' occurs when water moves slowly through tiny spaces between soil grains. 'Preferential flow' takes place when water travels relatively quickly through bigger channels, called macropores, such as cracks and earthworm burrows.

"Imagine a bucket of sand with plastic straws inserted throughout," says Ali. "If you dumped water on this sand bucket, the water traveling through the straws would reach the bottom first."

Similarly, preferential water flow through soil macropores can carry contaminants quickly from the surface down to groundwater reservoirs.

Macropores are often connected to one another. "They act like a network of pipes, and they can be created or exacerbated by human activities," says Ali. "Knowing when and where there is preferential flow and how to manage land in those areas is critical to preserving groundwater quality."

Clay-rich soils--such as vertisols–tend to crack, which creates macropores. "That makes these soils natural candidates to study the relative importance of matrix and preferential flow," says Ali.

This study was conducted in research plots in Manitoba, Canada. Researchers added liquid hog manure to one plot but not the other. They sprinkled water mixed with blue dye on both plots to determine how water moved through the soil.

In the plot where manure was applied, water reached up to 25 inches (64 cm) into the soil. In contrast, water reached up to 18 inches (45 cm) in the plot where manure was not applied. Both plots showed evidence of matrix and preferential water flow.

The researchers also found that the water moving through the macropores was not completely separated from the rest of the soil.

"If you think back to the analogy of the sand bucket with the straws in it, the straws have a bunch of small little holes in them," says Ali. "Water can be exchanged laterally between the macropores and the surrounding soil."

Lateral exchange has been reported frequently for smaller macropores in forested soils, says Ali. "But it is less common in agricultural soils where cracks tend to be larger."

This study focused on a single site, so Ali says that further research is needed before generalizations can be made.

Ali is also studying the role of soil cracks in spring (created by the soil freezing and thawing multiple times) versus the role of cracks in summer (created when soils become especially dry).

Read more about this research in Agricultural and Environmental Letters. The research was done under the umbrella of the Watershed Systems Research Program and funded by the Government of Manitoba, as well as a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Discovery Grant awarded to Genevieve Ali.
Published in Research
Ames, IA – An Iowa State University professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering has been named the new director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center.

Matt Helmers, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and extension agricultural engineer, began his duties on Sept. 1. Helmers succeeds Hongwei Xin, assistant dean of research for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, who served as interim director since 2017.

Helmers joined Iowa State in 2003. He serves as the agricultural and biosystems engineering department’s associate chair for research and extension and holds the title of Dean’s Professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Dr. Helmers is well-known among Iowa farmers and water quality researchers as an exceptional scientist and a trusted source of information about nutrient management,” said Joe Colletti, interim endowed dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “His leadership of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center is a significant new chapter in addressing the goals set forth in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.”

Helmers was part of the scientific team that worked on the strategy’s Nonpoint Source Science Assessment, serving as its nitrogen team chair. He served on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board Agricultural Science Committee from 2016 to 2018.

The Iowa Nutrient Research Center has committed $8.7 million to 76 research projects since it was created in 2013 by the Iowa Board of Regents in response to legislation passed by the Iowa Legislature. The center funds research by scientists at Iowa State, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa to address nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient losses to surface waters. They pursue science-based approaches to areas that include evaluating the performance of current and emerging nutrient management practices and providing recommendations on implementing the practices and developing new practices.

Helmers is involved in research and extension and outreach activities in the areas of water management and water quality. One focus area is subsurface drainage and the impacts of agricultural management on nutrient export from subsurface drained lands. Another focus is surface runoff from agricultural areas, including the strategic placement and design of buffer systems focusing on how buffer systems can be used to minimize environmental impacts.

He is faculty adviser to the Iowa Learning Farms, a partnership of farmers, non-farmers, urban residents, educators, agencies and conservationists to promote a renewed commitment to a Culture of Conservation. This year he was presented the Outstanding Achievement in Extension Award by the Iowa State College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and received its Dean Lee R. Kolmer Award for Excellence in Applied Research in 2017.

Helmers earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Iowa State in 1995; a master’s degree in civil engineering in 1997 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; and a doctorate in agricultural and biological systems engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2003.
Published in Research
Research is underway in southern Alberta to assess how housing feedlot cattle in roller compacted concrete (RCC) floor pens compares to traditional clay floor pens.

Traditionally, feedlot pen floors in Alberta are constructed of compacted clay. Annual feedlot pen maintenance requires clay to repair damaged pen floors, which can significantly add to input costs and the environmental footprint of feedlots.

Constructing feedlot pen floors with RCC is one possible sustainable solution for stabilizing the pen floors, subsequently improving efficiencies of feedlot operations and animal performance, among other potential benefits.

This research project aims to assess the social, environmental, technological and economic performance - positive, negative or neutral - associated with housing feedlot cattle in RCC floor pens versus traditional clay floor pens. Examples of a few objectives being examined are animal welfare, water runoff, emissions, manure volume, durability and strength of pen floor, as well as average daily gain.

This project is anticipated to be completed by February 2019. For more information, contact Ike Edeogu, technology development engineer with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, at 780-415-2359.
Published in Beef
With water quality in the Chesapeake Bay suffering from excess nutrients and fish populations in rivers such as the Susquehanna experiencing gender skewing and other reproductive abnormalities, understanding how to minimize runoff of both nutrients and endocrine-disrupting compounds from farm fields after manure applications is a critical objective for agriculture.
Published in Other
A week spent in a feedyard pen is helping researchers gain a better understanding of greenhouse gas emissions. Their goal is to improve the national inventory of greenhouse gases and determine potential mitigation measures.
Published in Beef
A multi-disciplinary team of researchers at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln will conduct a project transforming manure and cedar mulch from waste to worth. The project is funded by a $132,663 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

Leading the research will be Amy Millmier Schmidt, assistant professor in biological systems engineering and animal science, and Rick Koelsch, professor in biological systems engineering and animal science. The project is designed to provide natural resource benefits to Nebraska through increased utilization of livestock manure and cedar mulch among crop farmers.

"When manure is applied to cropland at agronomic rates using recommended best management practices, it provides agronomic, soil health, and environmental benefits," said Schmidt.

As the management of eastern red cedar trees has become a critical issue in many parts of the state, Schmidt and others have been studying practices that utilize the biomass created during forest management activities in ways that add value to this product.

"Combining wood chips with manure prior to land application could provide a market for the woody biomass generated during tree management activities and help offset the cost that landowners bear for tree removal," she said.

The team's on-farm research to date has demonstrated that manure-mulch mixtures improve soil characteristics without negatively impacting crop productivity. This new award will allow an expanded project team to demonstrate the practice more widely throughout the state, complete an economic analysis of the practice, and engage high school students in educational experiences related to soil health, conservation and cedar tree management. It will also introduce the students to on-farm research for evaluating a proposed practice change.

"On-farm research is at the core of extension and research programs at land-grant universities like Nebraska," said Koelsch. "Giving high school students hands-on experience evaluating a practice to understand how it impacts farm profitability is a unique way to improve science literacy, critical thinking skills, and interest in agricultural careers."

Outreach activities will focus on improving understanding among crop farmers of the benefits these amendments provide and motivating implementation of this new practice. The long-term goal of the project is to improve soil health properties for Nebraska soils, reduce nutrient losses to Nebraska water resources, and reduce eastern red cedar tree encroachment on Nebraska's pasture and grassland resources.

The project is one of the 105 projects receiving $18,301,819 in grant awards from the Nebraska Environmental Trust this year. The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Environmental Trust in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the Trust has provided over $289 million in grants to over 2,000 projects across the state.
Published in News
Manure Manager strives to provide U.S. and Canadian livestock producers plus custom applicators with timely information to help them manage their businesses in the most efficient, safe and economical way possible. Whether through our printed publication, website or social media accounts, we do our best to keep you in the know about manure management issues.

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The information you provide will remain confidential, secure and will help provide a snapshot of the state-of-the-industry plus provide us with valuable feedback about what you would like to see more of inside these pages or online.

The survey is live now and will be available at manuremanager.com/survey until September 4 [we kept it open a few extra weeks to catch any stragglers].

Everyone who takes the time to complete the survey will be entered into a draw for $500.

Thank-you in advance for your valuable insights and opinions.
Published in Companies
A Vancouver college is looking for new ways to manage manure in British Columbia's Fraser Valley.

Working with Muddy River Technologies of Delta, B.C., researchers at Langara College are seeking a cost effective way to prevent soil degradation and water contamination by removing phosphorus, nitrogen and other byproducts from animal manure.

The Fraser Valley is home to about 500 dairies, and the high amounts of slurry cause environmental and economic problems. Farmers do not have enough land to dispose of it, and they cannot expand because of the limitations placed on them by excess manure, said Langara researcher Kelly Sveinson.

This spring the college received $90,000 from the B.C. Innovation Council Ignite Award to support the project involving Sveinson, chemist Todd Stuckless and Rob Stephenson, chief technical officer of Muddy River Technologies, which works on water and waste treatments.

The project involves removing phosphates from manure using an electrochemical process similar to that used in environmental cleanups. The second step is to use a biochar carbon filter to capture ammonia that can be released as nitrogen. Ultimately those products could go back on the land as fertilizer. | READ MORE
Published in News
On June 6, 2018, the Center for Limnology reported that a toxic algae bloom had begun to spread across Lake Mendota. It quickly led to the closure of beaches around Madison's largest lake.

It also coincided with the launch of a new, four-year effort by Dane County, called Suck the Muck, designed to literally suck a century's-worth of phosphorus from 33-miles of streams that feed the county's lakes.

Phosphorus, a nutrient found in the manure applied to agricultural fields, makes its way to Wisconsin waters (and waterways elsewhere) in runoff following rain storms. When the weather is warm, it can lead to the foul-smelling water and toxic algae blooms that plague lakes like Mendota, which is situated in an agricultural landscape.

This runoff may be getting worse, according to a recent study from researchers with the Water Sustainability and Climate Project at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. With a changing climate, the frequency of high-intensity rain events is on the rise. These storms bring heavy rains over a short period of time and exacerbate phosphorus runoff from manure-covered agricultural fields, more so than scientists expected.

"Both things are bad for water quality – too much manure is bad and too many intense storms are bad, too," says lead author of the study in Environmental Research Letters, Melissa Motew. "This is a story about how one problem really compounds another problem."

Indeed, the Lake Mendota algal bloom came on the heels of the second-wettest May in Madison's recorded history, and its eighth warmest. The National Weather Service reported that May 2018 was the wettest on record for the contiguous United States.

But Motew didn't start out asking how heavy storms and manure interact synergistically to affect water quality. It was while studying legacy phosphorus in soils ­– the accumulation of the nutrient over time – that she and the research team noticed something interesting in the data.

"We knew that heavy rain transports a lot of phosphorus off of a field and in 2014, (co-author Stephen Carpenter, emeritus professor and director of CFL) found that a relatively small number of rain events each year were delivering the majority of phosphorus to the lakes," she explains. "We happened to notice that it seemed like when we had periods of heavy rainfall we were seeing worse water quality than we expected. It prompted us to set up this study."

Climate change is bringing more intense rainfall across the U.S., particularly in the Midwest and Northeast. The 2014 study from Carpenter and colleagues showed that 74 percent of the phosphorus load in Lake Mendota is now delivered across just 29 days each year, and a 2016 study from scientists at Marylhurst University in Oregon and UW–Madison showed that annual precipitation in the Yahara watershed, which includes Lake Mendota, increased by 2.1 mm each year between 1930 and 2010.

This amounts to an increase of about seven inches of additional rain today, Motew explains. That same study also showed that while the frequency of large storm events in the region averaged 9.5 events per decade between 1930 and 1990, between 1991 and 2010, the number of large storm events nearly doubled, reaching 18 events per decade.

Using simulation models, Motew and the study team asked how more extreme rain events might interact with manure-and-fertilizer phosphorus supply on croplands to affect runoff at the level of an individual lake and the streams that feed it. That is, what happens when a given amount of rain falls on a field over the course of two hours instead of 24 hours?

"The model lets us scale up and make interesting observations from the scale of one field to the entire watershed," she says. "Models let us home in and study the process of how phosphorus moves in great detail."

Using two 60-year climate scenarios, one which assumed daily precipitation, maximum and minimum temperatures, wind speeds, relative humidity and solar radiation similar to current mean annual values in Madison, and another assuming more extreme rain events, Motew's model explored what happens to phosphorus concentrations in Lake Mendota and its tributary streams under low- and high-intensity precipitation conditions.

It took into account the real-life practices of farmers in the watershed – including their typical fertilizer and manure applications and tillage practices, the amount of phosphorus already stored in the surface layers of the soil, and the composition of the land around Lake Mendota. More than half of the land surrounding it is agricultural.

Motew found that dissolved phosphorus – the kind found in manure, as compared to other fertilizers and that found in soil – combined synergistically with heavy rain events to increase the amount of phosphorus running off into Lake Mendota and its streams.

"This puts us at even greater risk of worsening water quality," says Christopher Kucharik, study co-author and Motew's former graduate advisor. "This result also has wide-reaching implications because the synergistic relationship will likely be present in many agricultural watersheds around the world, where livestock and surface water co-exist."

Phosphorus is a critical nutrient for living organisms like crops. But what it does on land, it also does in water: encourages growth of organisms like plants and algae. When they die, these organisms fall to the bottom of an affected waterway, decomposing and consuming oxygen. This kills wildlife and encourages the growth of cyanobacteria, the organism behind toxic algae blooms. In some parts of the country, it can lead to dead zones, like in the Gulf of Mexico.

Farmers in Dane County and elsewhere are already applying less manure and doing so more precisely, Motew says, and she is hopeful these strategies will help to reduce phosphorus runoff from their croplands.

Motew, who is now a research fellow at The Nature Conservancy, also thinks farmers should be a part of continuing efforts to improve water quality. "We need to partner more with farmers so we can not only improve our own research by using better data, but so we can work together and build on their ideas, too." she says. "They know the problems up-close-and-personal and can provide insights we haven't considered. We as scientists can help explore where those insights may lead."

Motew adds: "Farmers are key to solving the problem, even though they are frequently blamed. We all need to take responsibility for our food system and find ways to support farmers in better manure management."

The study was supported by the National Science Foundation (grant numbers DEB-1038759 and DEB-1440297).
Published in Other
Iowa State University researchers have completed testing of a new concept for disposing of animal carcasses following a disease outbreak.
Published in Compost
Findings by a team of University of B.C. wastewater engineering researchers at the Okanagan campus have revealed a low-cost solution to many of the problems plaguing anaerobic digesters used by municipalities.

Anaerobic digesters are seen as a popular solution to wastewater treatment as they offer the potential for producing green energy and associated products.

Anaerobic digestion uses a series of biological micro-organism processes to break down wastewater material to produce biogas, which can then be combusted to generate electricity and heat, or can be further processed into renewable natural gas or transportation fuels. Dewatered material can also be used for compost. | READ MORE
Published in News
Not the first thing you think of when you see elephant dung, but this material turns out to be an excellent source of cellulose for paper manufacturing, scientists report. And in regions with plenty of farm animals, upcycling manure into paper products could be a cheap and environmentally sound method to use manure.
Published in Beef
Farmers and manure managers in North America have known for years that phosphorus is a huge concern, but solutions for handling this nutrient have not come easy. Hauling manure away to locations where fields aren’t already saturated isn’t always practical or cost-effective.
Published in Dairy
The California Department of Food and Agriculture has awarded a $213,349 research grant to the California Dairy Research Foundation in collaboration with University of California scientists to study methane emissions at California dairies. The project is titled, "Small Dairy Climate Change Research: An economic evaluation of strategies for methane emission reduction effectiveness and appropriateness in small and large California dairies."

Supported by a $250,000 appropriation from the Budget Act of 2017, the research will focus on understanding the differences in methane emissions from large and small dairies.

Researchers will also examine cost-saving techniques, evaluate emerging technologies, and investigate the economic impacts of methane regulations on California dairies.

The research will contribute to the Small Dairy Climate Action Plan which is required as part of the 2017-18 Budget Act (Item 8570-101-3228 (1) (b)). For more details on the awarded project, please visit www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/research/

Published in News
Regina, Sask – Despite their reputation, flatulent cows aren’t capable of destroying the world, an environmental politics professor argues in a forthcoming research paper.

But still, livestock are saddled with an outsized share of the blame for climate change. And if that misunderstanding persists, and pushes policymakers to force a societal shift from meat-eating, it could lead to disaster, says Ryan Katz-Rosene at the University of Ottawa’s school of political studies. READ MORE



Published in Air quality
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