Two common questions many in the fertilizer retail market ponder are: How to develop a precise and customized Nutrient Management Plan for growers? And what’s the best way to protect nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in applied manure from loss this fall and winter?
Presenting solutions to these two issues during a recent CropLife Media Group Webinar was Mike Sexton, certified technical services provider (TSP) with Twin Lakes Environmental Services, and Mitch Bambauer, location manager and agronomy representative for Bambauer Fertilizer & Seed.
Constructing New Or Expanding Current Operations
With the USDA, EPA and NRCS as watchful as ever, securing a permit to build or expand a livestock/manure operation can be challenging. While many factors are important to consider when undertaking such a task, securing a proper consultant should be an owner’s top priority, says Sexton.
A qualified consultant can help choose a suitable site or ensure the land the operation is expanding onto is suitable and sanctioned by law.
In Iowa, Sexton recommends a list of environmental consultants-for-hire through the IMMAG Website. “It has a lot of resources and is one of the best places to find consultants in my experience,” says Sexton. “Another good way to find a consultant would be to ask some of your friends or neighbors who are in the livestock production business — word of mouth is a great way to find a consultant in any area.”
The consultant’s involvement becomes all the more critical if you plan on receiving any NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds, according to Sexton. “You must have a consultant who is a certified TSP with the NRCS,” he says. “If they’re not, your nutrient management plan will not be accepted by the NRCS, and your EQIP funds will be in jeopardy.”
The consultant also should be versed in a myriad of other subject areas, one being local siting regulations, as the property’s proximity to water sources, public use areas, residential developments and designated wetlands can exclude it from manure use. In many cases, a healthy separation difference, or amount of land, between the operation and its neighbors is required.
“Separation differences can depend on whether or not you’re a liquid or dry manure facility and the size of the operation,” says Sexton. “After that, the next thing you have to find out is whether your operation lies within Alluvial or Karst topography.”
If the operation is indeed sitting within an alluvial region, where soil has historically been deposited by river runoff, the consultant must then find out, via a Declaratory Order from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), if the operation is located in a 100 Year Flood Plain or Alluvial Aquifer area, Sexton says. Both of those types of lands have been excluded from livestock and manure farming use by recent legislation.
Financing is of course another consideration, whether it be traditional private banking or government funds such as EQIP and Livestock Water Quality Program funds, which bring with them additional requirements for eligibility.
After tackling the previous issues, Sexton says a prospective owner can begin forming his manure/nutrient management plan, which includes site name, how ownership is set up (LLC, LLP, etc.), who the manure will be distributed to, how many head of cattle will be on-site and how many turns per year the facility will produce. Signed agreements, erosion information and conservation plans and crop rotation are also considered in the plan.
“These are all things, among many others, we need to know before submitting an application with the DNR,” he says.
Managing Manure Nutrients
Mitch Bambauer has been conducting research trials with the SFP line of nutrient managers, including AVAIL Phosphorus Fertilizer Enhancer and NutriSphere-N Nitrogen Fertilizer Manager, on his family-owned retail operation since 2007. N leaching, or unwanted movement, and P fixation have been the main focus of his research.
“These types of losses are no secret — we’ve been dealing with them since the beginning of time — and our goal is to try and find ways to get around those losses and make those nutrients more available to the plant,” says Bambauer. “That’s something that SFP products have helped us with immensely.”
According to results from trials on Bambauer’s research plots AVAIL-treated P has proven effective in reducing P fixation and making more P available for plant uptake. Over a three-year period (2008-11), 18 corn and soybean field trials demonstrated a 22% increase on average in P availability where AVAIL was used. In turn, having that P available in greater ratios increased yields by 10.75 bushels-per-acre on average over the same period of time.
Similarly, fields where NutriSphere-N-treated N was applied showed advantages over acres where untreated N was applied due to reduced leaching, volatilization and denitrification.
Another product developed by SFP to help manage nutrients in applied manures is More Than Manure Nutrient Manager (MTM), More Than Manure is the first and only manure fertilizer manager proven to reduce nitrogen loss and phosphorus lock-up in manure, according to the company.
Highlights of the MTM system include low application rates (18 ounces per acre), no special equipment required for application and the ability to inject MTM into application equipment for variable-rate applications. MTM also boasts crop rotation flexibility and a non-toxic, water-soluble, biodegradable and non-corrosive composition, ensuring safety and ease-of-use.
The benefits of deploying the MTM system are many, according to Bambauer:
- Reduces ammonia levels.
- Decreases odor (by reducing ammonia levels in the surrounding air).
- Breaks up solids on bottoms of lagoons/pits.
- Less crusting.
- Environmentally-safe and biodegradable.
- Easy-to-apply, can be used on all types of manure and application equipment.
Demonstrating these claims, in a 2011 Swine ammonia test, undertaken on Jim Knief’s farm in Jackson Center, OH, the product reduced ammonia levels in the air from a pre-application level of 75 parts per million (ppm) to 5 ppm, 17 days post-application.
A swine ammonia test from this past season also showed a dramatic decrease in ammonia levels in the atmosphere, from over 180 ppm pre-application down to under 20 ppm after 12 weeks of the MTM application.
Still, while today’s growers are concerned more than ever with safety and nutrient management, yield benefits are always top-of-mind when it comes to fertilizer. More than 24, 2011 MTM field trials in corn produced an average yield increase of 10.8 bushels per acre.
“Obviously that yield increase is going to depend on the amount of P and N in the manure,” says Bambauer. “All in all, the product has done a very nice job controlling nutrients, getting more nutrients up into the plant and getting that positive yield response growers are looking for.”