Agricultural Production Animal Manure Management

Value of Manure

Building Soil Organic Matter Takes Time

clump of soil showing organic matter
Our “instant” culture gravitates to testimonials about how to rapidly increase soil organic matter by 1% within 1 to 3 years. Conversations with lenders and landlords regarding rewards on manure applications and multi-species cover crops investments would likely be easier if financial rewards or measured soil physical properties came quickly.

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Estimating Nitrogen Credit from Manure

manure pile
Manure is a valuable source of nutrients offering agronomic and soil health value. Most manure nutrients (e.g. phosphorus) can be managed successfully with traditional soil analysis. However, nitrogen in manure requires some simple advance planning to insure that it is given proper credit for offsetting commercial fertilizer inputs.

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Does Manure Benefit Crop Productivity? Environment?

dry manure spreader with vertical beaters
Manure is often viewed by many as an environmental liability. However, if manure is applied at rates equal to or less than the nitrogen (N) requirement of a crop, can manure produce environmental benefits over commercial fertilizer? This was the focus of an Asian research group which summarized the results of 141 published studies from Asia, Europe, and the U.S. comparing manure substitution for fertilizer. This article summarizes the “Take Home Messages” from this research paper.

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Improved Use Efficiency of Applied Organic Nitrogen

compost windrows
Land application of organic materials for soil management in Nebraska is important. The availability of applied organic N and the fertilizer N substitution values of applied organic materials is not well predicted. The uncertainty of applied organic N availability leads to over-application of fertilizer N resulting in low efficiency of applied N use. Research has been done to validate or adapt canopy sensor guided in-season N application practices for fields with manure or other organic material applied, and to improve the prediction of the fertilizer N substitution values for organic materials.

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Soil quality impacts of agricultural and municipal biosolids applications

Trophic levels of the soil food web (Source: nrcs.usda.gov)
Soil health management refers to the preservation and improvement in soil physical, chemical, and biological properties to maximize the productive capacity of soil. Cover crops and reduced tillage are promoted for improving soil health; however, soil amendments such as application of livestock manure and municipal biosolids have received less attention as a soil health improvement practice. A literature review, funded by the North Central Region Water Network and the Soil Health Institute, was conducted to summarize and discuss results of studies reporting chemical, physical, and biological soil properties from application of livestock manure, animal by-products (i.e. compost), and municipal biosolids and to identify further research needs.

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