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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


When You Must Apply Manure in Winter, Take Precautions

January 18, 2011

ADA, Ohio -- Farmers are never encouraged to spread manure or fertilizer on frozen or snow-covered ground, but researchers know that sometimes it's inevitable. That's why Robert Mullen of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and Jon Rausch, Ohio State University Extension educator, will present "How to Apply Manure and Fertilizer to Frozen/Snow Covered Ground, If You Absolutely Have To" at the 2011 Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference.

The conference will be held Feb. 24-25 at the McIntosh Center of Ohio Northern University in Ada. Early registration (before Feb. 15) is $50 for one day or $70 for both days. More information and registration materials are available at

"We're emphasizing 'if you absolutely have to' in this presentation," Rausch said. "Applying manure or commercial fertilizer on frozen or snow-covered ground is never a recommended practice." Doing so greatly increases the risk of runoff events when a thaw comes, he said. Runoff means water moves across the surface, often taking sediment and nutrients with it. "It's really just a matter of time before those nutrients move off the field and end up where we don't want them," Rausch said.

However, producers don't have unlimited capacity to store manure, especially liquid manure, Rausch said. Solid manure and commercial fertilizer is easier to store, but for various reasons producers sometimes find themselves needing to remove it from storage and apply it during winter months. "Whatever the reason, it has been done," Rausch said. In those cases, producers should be cautious and think about:

  • Reducing application rates.
  • Surface residue levels (higher levels generally reduce runoff rates).
  • Setbacks from environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Slope considerations of the application field.

Mullen and Rausch will address all of these concerns during their presentation at 1 p.m. on Feb. 25. Copies of NRCS Practice Standard 633, "Waste Utilization," will be available. Participants at this session will be eligible for credit toward Certified Livestock Manager (CLM) recertification.

The Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference is the largest, most comprehensive program of conservation tillage techniques in the Midwest. About 60 presenters (farmers, industry professionals, and university specialists) from around the country focus on cost-saving, production management topics. The conference is broken down into tracks covering soil and water; nutrient and manure management; advanced scouting techniques; cover crops; crop management; and planters and precision agriculture.

The conference broke an attendance record in 2010 with 966 farmers, crop consultants and industry representatives attending the event. Farmers valued the education they received at $13 per acre, roughly a $7 million value. Crop consultants placed a value on their educational experiences at $16 per acre for the land they influence.

Sponsors of the conference include OSU Extension, OARDC, Northwest Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA Farm Service Agency, and the Ohio No-Till Council.

Martha Filipic
Jon Rausch