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Got manure?

Randy Pepin, Extension Educator

August 23, 2014

Got manure? Do you wish you had more manure? Do you have too much manure? Got a plan for your manure? Is spreading manure a necessary chore, or is it an opportunity to enhance your bottom line?

Are we spreading our manure based on nitrogen or phosphorus needs of our crops? Which method is correct? That partially depends on your fields' phosphorus soil test. Soil test of 21 ppm Bray 1-P or 16 ppm Olson is what is recommended for conventional crop production in Minnesota. Applying manure is an excellent method of supplying NPK and other soil nutrient needs. On a number of livestock farms, after many years of applying manure to fields based on nitrogen needs, the soil phosphorus can be substantially higher than the recommended 21 ppm Bray 1-P or 16 ppm Olson.

Why does this matter if phosphorus is fairly stable in the soil? It matters because of eutrophication - the process of excess phosphorus entering a water system producing excess growth of green algae and other undesirable plants, and eventually causing the death of desirable aquatic life. When field soil phosphorus levels are quite high, any soil erosion contains considerable more phosphorus than normal. If this is your situation, there are various options available to help capture more of your manure's value and simultaneously protect the environment. Let us discuss some land and manure management options available.

Some livestock producers have sufficient acres, allowing these producers to pinpoint the areas or fields with the greatest need of the NPK and other manure nutrients. This allows them to extract maximum value from their manure without over applying nutrients on the fields. Livestock producers in this situation consistently have crops to market in addition to the use of forages and grains for their livestock.

This winter there will be a series of workshops around the state illustrating various strategies for balancing phosphorus imports and exports on livestock farms. Contact your local University of Minnesota Extension Educator later this fall for the time and location of the workshop nearest you.

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