Incorporating liquid manure via injection. Photo by OSU Extension.

Manure Science Review highlights

The goal when it comes to spreading manure on a farm field is to provide nutrients for crops while preventing nutrient runoff to streams. This year’s Manure Science Review included both a look at applying new technology to vary the rate of manure application and a talk about old technology — sandbags — to keep nutrients from washing away.

These topics and more were discussed July 26 during a daylong event focused on educating farmers and producers about the latest in manure science. Held by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), Manure Science Review was held at Ohio State’s Northwest Agricultural Research Station.

Talks and demonstrations included information about variable rate application, controlling runoff with sandbags, composting, manure analysis, and more, said Manure Science Review co-planner Mary Wicks, a program coordinator for the Ohio Composting and Manure Management program at the CFAES Wooster campus.

She said the concept of combining GPS, soil data, and machine distribution has been used to vary fertilizer application, but traditionally, manure is spread at the same rate throughout a field. 

“Technology is giving farmers more control,” Wicks said. “It’s farmers who are innovating on this; it’s not a product.”

She said another important discussion this year was “Understanding manure analysis: Comparison to commercial fertilizer” with Glen Arnold, manure nutrient field specialist at Ohio State and co-chair of the Manure Science Review.

“Fertilizer prices are so high,” Wicks said. “Farmers are kind of scrambling, looking for alternatives.”

Another new topic this year was “Beaver in a Bag: Creating mini wetlands to control runoff.” Curt Tobe, agriculture nutrient technician with the Putnam Soil and Water Conservation District, said controlling the water to control nutrient runoff is not top of mind for many farmers, who are more likely to focus on getting excess water out as fast as they can.

“We aren’t taking any land out of production to do this practice,” Tobe said. “And we’re creating some habitat, with wetlands species coming in.”

The idea is to identify surface drains and ditches where water runs off after a heavy rain and create temporary sandbag dams, which allow the water to seep out slowly. Eventually, sediment will seal the spaces around the sandbags, but then evaporation and wetlands species will continue to remove water. The idea is if the water drains slowly, the nutrients aren’t so easily washed away.

Tobe said there is little data so far on the effects of Beaver in a Bag, but it’s similar to the use of a permanent weir, or a low-head dam, and research on weirs suggests some good benefits to water quality.

Returning this year was a demonstration of the provocatively named #SoilYourUndies. Farmers can repurpose old underwear (or any cotton) by burying the material at various places in a field and then digging it up to check for microbial activity. The amount of deterioration gives clues about the soil’s health.

Other talks and demonstrations included the following:

  • H2Ohio: Current status and future plans
  • Composting pen pack cattle manure for improved nutrient transport 
  • Seeding cover crops with a drone
  • Solid manure: Spreader calibration
  • Liquid manure: Application tool bars
  • Liquid manure: Side dressing
  • Comparing P2O5 content in manures.

For more information, contact Wicks at wicks.14@osu.edu or 330-202-3533.

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