Workshops encourage farmers to try water-friendly practices says study
By Marg Land
September 1, 2009 – Minnesota farmers and producers who participated in
University of Minnesota-sponsored small group manure management
workshops are likely to adopt water-friendly practices that also save
them money, according to a survey by the university’s Water Resources
September 1, 2009 – Minnesota farmers and producers who participated in University of Minnesota-sponsored small group manure management workshops are likely to adopt water-friendly practices that also save them money, according to a survey by the university’s Water Resources Center.
During the winter of 2008-2009, Water Resources Center researchers held “Value of Manure” small group workshops in 22 counties across the state. The 267 workshop participants — 87 percent of who were agricultural producers — learned to use a university-developed spreadsheet program to compare costs and returns from alternative manure management practices on their own farms.
As a result of the workshop and spreadsheet findings, 74 percent of workshop attendees said they would change their application rates and timings. And between one-quarter and one-third of all attendees who weren’t already testing, calibrating and keeping a record of their manure applications said they would start as a result of the workshops.
In addition to helping farmers reduce the amount of phosphorus and pathogens that enter surface and ground water as a result of over-application, the plans had the added benefits of saving farmers money by lowering costs. Nearly 75 percent of attendees said they could improve manure economic return per acre by $5 or more based on their spreadsheet calculations.
“The result is win-win,” said Water Resources Center agronomist and education coordinator Les Everett. “Producers are finding they can save fertilizer expense, while reducing the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and pathogens that could potentially reach surface waters and ground water as a result of over-application.”
The workshops were organized by the Water Resources Center and University of Minnesota Extension, with assistance from Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and County Feedlot officers.