Manure and the Environment

Agricultural Production Animal Manure Management

Manure and the Environment

Manure contains four primary contaminants that impact water quality: nitrogen, phosphorus, bacteria and other pathogens, and organic matter. Achieving a nutrient balance will reduce potential environmental hazards often associated with animal agriculture. An annual crop nutrient management plan is needed to ensure an adequate supply of nutrients to sustain profitable crop production, and to balance nutrient inputs (including manure) with crop nutrient needs.

Odor Management

Odor emission is of great concern to the general public. An odor management plan is required in the permit application for livestock operations with more than 1,000 animal units. Producers need to understand odor emission from animal housing, manure storage and handling, and land application and available management options.

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Air Quality Issues

The federal Clean Air Act Amendment of 1990 (CAAA) has provisions of importance to producers of agricultural products. Although protecting air quality has inherent implications for livestock and poultry health as well as profitability, the language of air quality is derived principally from environmental regulations designed to protect public health and the use and enjoyment of private property.

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Phosphorous Dynamics

Animal manures contain both organic and inorganic forms of phosphorus. When manure mineralizes, organic phosphorus becomes inorganic phosphorus in solution and is available to plants. Some organic phosphorus is transformed to inorganic form shortly after application but other phosphorus will remain in organic form

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Manure Nutrient Losses

Manure nutrients are lost during manure handling, storage, treatment, and application. Manure nitrogen is especially vulnerable to volatilization when ammonium is transformed to ammonia. Losses of phosphorus and potassium are primarily due to runoff and erosion.

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Phosphorous Loss

Land application of manure can be beneficial to crop production but can result in increased risk of P loss to surface waters. When manure is applied to meet crop nitrogen needs, the amount of P applied is typically much more than the P removed in the harvest of one crop. Effective January 1, 2007, operators of large CAFOs in Nebraska need to assess the risk of P delivery to surface waters from each of their designated fields by using a P index before manure can be applied.

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