Plan B for 2013 Late Fall Manure Application

Protecting water from manure nutrients would be a lot easier if the weather would cooperate.  

Most produers know that applying manure on snow or on frozen ground is a bad idea.  Nutrients don’t end up where they are needed and more money is spent on compensating with commercial fertilizer. From an evironmental perspective, however, the risk is high for nutrient rich water to move nitrogen and phosphorus over the surface away from where crops can utilize them.  

Risk of soil and nutrient movement is highest in saturated top cm of frozen soils during a winter warm-spell.
Risk of soil and nutrient movement is highest in saturated top cm of frozen soils during a winter warm-spell.

In a wet fall, like 2013, there have been limited options for applying and incorporating manure before frost and/or snow.  In these situations a producer may need to go to Plan B or the contingency strategies for the farm’s “manure management plan”.  Even with contingency plans,  there are several practices that should be considered for late fall 2013 application.

  1. Consider alternative storages that manure can be transferred to until conditions improve for land application.
  2. When application occurs after first snow fall or frost and manure has to be surface applied:  Apply to the fields furthest away from rivers and streams and with the least risk of runoff and nutrient/pathogen movement.  This is easier said than done, and sometimes means applying to only part of a field.  Manure should never be surface applied in a flood zone or an area that is often underwater in spring.
  3. Apply to fields with residue cover (grain corn stubble, hay/pastures).  Residue cover slows water movement and helps to prevent nutrient loss.  
  4. When surface applying manure to a field with topography – the fields where a grassed waterway would be a good thing:  Shut off the application in the water runs.  Nutrients applied in the water “flow paths” WILL end up in the water course.
  5. There is always new technology to consideration for future years:  Filtex socks – filter material tubes filled with compost/woodchip type materials – help infiltrate and hold water and are placed across water runs.  These tubes are relatively easy to move and have a “berm-type” effect that can slow water movement  from a field.   They need to be wide enough to stop most water from going around them. 
  6. Another idea for future consideration:  Reduce the amount of manure left in storage in late fall by planning more frequent manure application during the growing season.   New technlogy is available that helps apply manure more uniformly; potentially into newly seeded or standing corn, onto forages and pastures; after wheat harvest, slurry seeded with cover crops, just to mention a few.