Research
Chevron U.S.A. Inc. and California Bioenergy LLC recently announced a joint investment in a holding company with California dairy farmers to produce and market dairy biomethane as a vehicle fuel in the state.
Published in News
The Thames River Phosphorus Reduction Collaborative (PRC) is moving into summer by installing and testing technologies that intercept and remove phosphorus from agricultural runoff. Phosphorus entering the system contributes to the growth of harmful algal blooms in the Thames River and Lake Erie.
Published in News
Are you searching for the latest research and information related to manure? Then, the North American Manure Expo is a can't miss event!
Published in News
Manure treatment, such as composting, and manure land application are generally considered to be effective measures to reduce bacterial pathogens and utilize the manure in an environmentally sustainable manner. However, unlike pathogenic bacteria, antimicrobial resistant bacteria can persist throughout various manure treatments and land application events.
Published in Manure Handling
Farmers rely on phosphorus fertilizers to enrich the soil and ensure bountiful harvests, but the world's recoverable reserves of phosphate rocks, from which such fertilizers are produced, are finite and unevenly distributed.
Published in Profiles
A recent study from the University of Arkansas shows the U.S. pork industry has made great progress in multiple key sustainability metrics over the course of more than five decades.
Published in Swine
Over the last decade, Lake Erie has been struggling with high phosphorus levels. Farming is one of the leading land uses in the Lake Erie watershed, giving agriculture a critical role to play in improving water quality in the lake.
Published in Profiles
As we continue to search for profitable ways to expand the manure application window in Ohio, we have begun to research dragline application of manure to growing soybeans.
Published in Manure Application
Manure Manager magazine is joining with Annex Business Media's other agriculture publications to conduct a survey to gain a better understanding of the future of Canadian farming.
Published in Profiles
Widespread adoption by dairy farmers of injecting manure into the soil instead of spreading it on the surface could be crucial to restoring Chesapeake Bay water quality, according to researchers who compared phosphorus runoff from fields treated by both methods. However, they predict it will be difficult to persuade farmers to change practices.
Published in News
The Thames River Phosphorus Reduction Collaborative (PRC) has chosen five projects from 11 proposals to develop and test technologies that intercept and remove phosphorus from agricultural runoff. Phosphorus entering the system contributes to the growth of harmful algal blooms in the Thames River and Lake Erie.
Published in News
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
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