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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Wet Fall and Warm Winter Leave Abundance of Manure Farmers Can Use as Crop Nutrient

February 14, 2012

Feb. 13, 2012

FINDLAY, Ohio – An unusually wet fall and unseasonably warm winter have left many livestock farmers exploring every option to find extra storage for manure. An Ohio State University Extension researcher says farmers can utilize a portion of their manure to replace commercial fertilizer on wheat and corn crops, a practice that can also protect the environment.

Saturated fields have left many farmers pressed for manure storage because they’ve been unable to apply it to their fields due to unfavorable field conditions, said Glen Arnold, an OSU Extension Field Specialist. Arnold, whose research deals with manure as a source of nutrients for growing crops, said farmers can turn unplanned excess of manure into opportunity by using the manure as a fertilizer for field crops.

While the use of manure as a fertilizer has long been appreciated by farmers, the time and high costs associated with transportation of manure, along with the convenience and application efficiency of synthetic fertilizers, has resulted in manure being applied during summer and fall months after crop harvest, he said. As fertilizer costs have risen sharply in recent years, more farmers may now be interested in applying manure to wheat and corn because the nutrients are in their manure storages waiting to be used, Arnold said.

“A relatively small percentage of farmers apply manure to growing crops at this time, but we think that will increase once more people see the benefit and cost savings,” he said. “Farmers are creative business people and when they see how well manure works they’ll come up with innovative ways to make it work for their operations.”

Arnold, whose field research includes the use of livestock manure on growing crops such as corn and wheat, said he’s found that farmers can benefit financially by using manure.

“More farmers will find that they can apply manure to growing crops, they’ll save on commercial fertilizers,” he said. “And more of the nutrients of the manure would be better utilized by growing crops, nitrogen and phosphorus in particular.

“Incorporating manure intro growing crops is a great way to keep phosphorus from escaping into surface waters.”

Arnold will hold a workshop on the issue March 1 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Putnam County office of OSU Extension, 124 Putnam Parkway, Ottawa, Ohio. Registration is $10 in advance or $15 at the door. Participants can register for the workshop by calling 419-422-3851.

Arnold will also speak on the issue March 7 at the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference. The talk, which begins at 8:30 a.m., will offer strategies and tips for growers to consider applying manure as a field nutrient in April, May and June, an application window many farmers haven’t really explored, he said.

“Most farmers are seriously pressed for manure storage because their facilities are made for handling several months of manure,” Arnold said. “But the wet fall growing season and warm winter have prevented them from applying, so it’s become a real concern for livestock farmers as the mild winter continues.”

The Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference is sponsored by OSU Extension, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Northwest Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Ohio No-Till Council.

The full schedule and registration information can be found at Participants may register online or by mail. Registration for the full conference is $80 (or $60 for one day) if received by Feb. 24. Information is also available in county offices of OSU Extension.

Tracy Turner
Glen Arnold