Optimizing Manure Value

Published: Jan. 10, 2020 at 3:27 PM CST
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At the 2020 Fremont Corn Expo, producers got a chance to learn how recycling manure can help both their farm operations and the environment.

We talked with Rick Koelsch with Nebraska Extension about the topic. "In a state like Nebraska, where we are growing feed grains and feed resources, having that animal industry and those cropping systems in close proximity is very important," Koelsch said. "It's important for the recycling of nutrients from animals, to manure, to crops and back to the animals. That recycling loop is very essential."

Koelsch said one challenge for producers when it comes to using manure wisely, is finding out which fields can gain the most value from manure. "A field that has certain fertility needs that aligns with the particular manure you have access to, we want to match those combinations," Koelsch said. "So, is it a phosphorus need a field has? Nitrogen? We need to identify what the manure has in it, and apply it to the needs of the field."

Another point producers might want to think about when it comes to manure is whether there's a benefit from a soil health perspective. "Manure is very rich in organics, and those organics are food sources to all of the biology that goes on in the soil. Matching up manure with fields that would benefit from improving the biology of the soil is also important," Koelsch said.

Experts on the topic of manure say that operators of animal feeding operations are doing well when it comes to recycling manure. "In terms of getting manure moved to neighboring crop farms, I'd say we are in a transition of that occurring," Koelsch said. "I think people are just beginning to understand where manure finds its greatest benefit, and how far it can be transported. My main message is, we need to keep thinking about how well we are doing at recycling nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon. What practices are we putting in place to encourage the recycling between crops, animal manure, and back to crops? The more efficient we are at doing that, the better environmental stewards we will be."

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