As we approach spring, the Preble Soil and Water Conservation staff encourages livestock producers, custom applicators, and farm operators to be attentive when applying manure and fertilizer to local fields. From social media to increasing public awareness about livestock facilities and issues with some lakes and rivers across the state, producers are under increasing scrutiny, especially when handling manure.
With increased rainfall over the past several months, soil conditions have been unfavorable for manure application. Increased soil moisture increases the chance of nutrient transport and loss, as applied manure will infiltrate slower which leads to a greater risk of runoff. There is also a greater risk of manure movement to tile lines. It is important to follow best management practices to minimize the negative environmental impacts and ensure producers benefit from the manure’s fertilizer value.
Here are some ways that producers can minimize the risk of nutrient loss: Reduce application rates or do split applications. Liquid manure applications increase soil moisture further (example: 13,500 gallons applied per acre is equivalent to a 1/2-inch rainfall event). Carefully choose application fields. Some fields pose a higher risk due to slope, proximity to streams, systematic tiling, or being naturally wet. Apply in the drier locations of the field. Follow contours of the field. This allows less opportunity for flow from rainfall events shortly after application. Choose fields with surface residue or a growing cover crop. Fields with Increased surface residue and cover crops tend to have less runoff and less erosion than bare fields. Increase setback distances from sinkholes, tile inlets, streams, waterways, and ponds. Follow your manure management plan. Pay attention to soil test results and apply on fields that need the nutrients. Treat manure as a fertilizer that has a nutrient value. Watch the forecast. The highest risk for nutrient loss is within the first 48 hours of manure application. Manure application is not recommended when there is greater than a 50 percent chance of rainfall of more than 1/2-inch forecast within 24 hours. Keep forecast records with your manure application records.
Remember, these recommendations do not eliminate the risk for nutrient loss, but they can minimize it. In the event of an agricultural pollution incident, following best management practices shows effort by the producer to reduce the risks associated with manure application. The Preble Soil and Water Conservation District is available if you have questions or concerns regarding manure application. You can reach the office by phone at 937-456-5159.