When farmers used stoneboats, horses, and pitchforks to spread their manure on the fields during the winter on snow-covered and frozen fields, much of it would drift anywhere but down to the soil where the plants could use it the next spring.
Once people recognized the fact manure had some real nutrient value, governments and activists quickly put some studies together to help show this isn’t as valuable, especially if it ends up in creeks, rivers and lakes.
Therefore, whether farmers and realists believed those studies or not, cropping systems changed to better use those valuable nutrients.
Mitchell Timmerman, a nutrient management specialist with Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Development says approaches to the management of nutrients in cropping systems have changed dramatically as farmers seek to get more bang for their fertilizer buck.
Timmerman says farmers and industry people alike changed approaches to fertilizer management dramatically as farmers strive to be more efficient and get more bang for their buck out of their nutrient resources whether commercial fertilizers or livestock manure.
“That’s translated into improvements in technology, the specialty nitrogen fertilizers from commercial fertilizer suppliers and sellers,” he says. “On the manure side it means major developments in application equipment as well as techniques for managing the variability of nutrients in manure.”
Timmerman says a good example is storage and handling related to the challenge and the opportunity of phosphorus as it concentrates in the solids in liquid manures.
“How designing engineering aspects of manure management such as storage and pumping the product and then hauling it out to the field, targeting fields and applying it efficiently,” he says. “To minimize losses that represent economic risk as well as environmental risk and getting the most out of those resources, directing as much of the nutrient as possible into the crop as opposed to elsewhere in the environment.”
Timmerman says the industry is making good progress in moving it toward greater environmental sustainability, efficiency, and economic strength. •
— By Harry Siemens