A Sustainable Approach to Manure Management (2009)

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Pacific Agriculture Show Seminar
February 20, 10:00 am

Farmers are some of the most responsible environmental stewards of the province's land and water resources. They accept responsibility for managing their livestock wastes in a manner which increases agronomic benefits while reducing the risk of over-application, runoff, and leaching. Yet, since nutrient management is usually viewed as a cost which impacts on profitability, the approach taken to waste management needs to be both cost effective and work well.

The Fraser Valley is recognized as one of the most concentrated areas in Canada for poultry and dairy farms. These operations are also located in relative close proximity to expanding urban centres and to some of the most important ground water and surface water resources in the Province. Furthermore, as a source of greenhouse gas emissions, livestock operations will increasingly need to be mindful of the quality and type of their emissions. Against this backdrop, it is critical that the farming community (in the Fraser Valley and elsewhere in B.C.) remains proactive in mitigating the impact of livestock wastes through effective manure management.

This presentation will begin with an overview of the subject of animal wastes - in general and specific to the Fraser Valley. A primary seminar focus will be a review of the advantages of using an aerobic process instead of the (more commonly and less desirable) anaerobic process in breaking down poultry and dairy liquid and dry manures. This will include a discussion of new developments in manure management technology from Europe that enable liquid and solid animal wastes to be processed effectively, economically and in an environmentally-responsible manner, without the requirement for expensive capital expenditures or equipment. It will point out how this approach to manure management has been proven effective in usage around the world and also how recently several of the leading livestock rearing states (in the U.S.) have initiated a shift from anaerobic to aerobic methods of processing animal wastes.

The implications of this sustainable approach to manure management will be overviewed in terms of overcoming the main "nuisance" implications commonly associated with animal manure - e.g. odour, pathogens, and land, air and water pollution. It will also discuss the important agronomic benefits of this approach. Subject to time allocated for this presentation, methods of composting and field application of manure can also be discussed.

In other jurisdictions, as varied as Manitoba, North Carolina and parts of Europe, where due care was not taken in implementing effective manure management programs and managing farming's interrelationship with the environment and the broader community, moratoriums have been imposed. These legislative actions have had the effect of restricting the operation and/or expansion of livestock operations, thereby affecting the livelihood of farmers (and cost structure of farming). This presentation will provide thoughtful information that will help in protecting the integrity and health of the farming economy of the Fraser Valley and B.C., while remaining mindful of the broader environmental and community context in which it exists.

Presented by: Derek Pratt, B.E.S., M.B.A.

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Ag-Canada study shows slurry can replace fertilzer nitrogen on grassland

Although farmers have already cut back dramatically on fertilizer inputs, many still apply 200+ kg/ha of nitrogen to grassland on an annual basis. New research from Agriculture & Agri-food Canada shows that this may not be necessary.

The DPCG and Ag-Canada have used a small prototype of the SMA since 1992. Research with the SMA has provided invaluable information on improving slurry use for forage production and environmental protection.

In a massive manure research study, Dr. Shabtai Bittman found that grasses respond similarly to the mineral nitrogen in manure as they do to fertilizer nitrogen. This was true throughout the growing season. They key is appropriate application technique.

In Bittman's study, the main comparison was between manure application with the Sleighfoot Manure Applicator (MSA) and a conventional splash plate. The trial also looked at rate and timing of manure application. Here's what was found with respect to crop yield and nitrogen uptake:

  • At equivalent rates of mineral N, response to manure application with the SMA was similar to fertilizer N (ammonium nitrate). These results were consistent, whether manure was applied in spring, summer, or fall.
  • Response to splash-plate applied manure was less consistent than with the SMA. Yield with the splash-plate was as much as 1.3 t/ha (dry matter basis) less per cut than comparable fertilizer applications.
  • Delaying fertilizer or manure application by 7-8 days slightly reduced yields but did not reduce N uptake. This means that delaying fertilizer can result in higher protein content. It may also result in higher nitrate content.

Although no measurements were taken to evaluate crop damage when manure was applied with the splash-plate, the visual effects were stunning. On hot summer days, the splash-plate application often resulted in tip-burn on the grass, leaving the field with a displeasing golden hue for several days afterwards. With the SMA, the manure was totally hidden beneath the leaf canopy. In fact, a common challenge for SMA operators was to see where the last load of manure was spread.

Results Have Implications For Fall And Winter

Whether it's because they don't want to annoy their neighbors or they fear damaging their grassland, many forage producers avoid spreading manure on grass during the summer months. At the end of summer, their pits are full of manure and they are faced with the dilemma of spreading in fall.

In a year like 1996 when fall rains came early, some producers got stuck with pits that were full and land that was too wet to spread on. Using new technology like the SMA can provide the answer to avoiding this problem.

By getting a bigger portion of manure nutrients recycled through the crop during the growing season, producers have several incentives for using the SMA.

  • You save money on purchased fertilizer.
  • You have greater flexibility during the growing season. In summer, waiting a week after cutting to apply manure can actually be better because the new regrowth provides a better canopy, thus reducing the amount of ammonia lost to the air by volatilization.
  • By keeping off your fields in fall and winter, you not only minimize leaching losses but you reduce the harmful effects of soil compaction.
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Effects of Method of Applying Liquid Manure on Ammonia Emission (2001)

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Experiment & Measurement of Ammonia Loss

Scientists at the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, in collaboration with Holland Hitch Ltd., have developed a new precision, high-speed implement for applying liquid manure into the soil of grassland, minimum-tilled crop land as well as conventionally tilled fields.

The new applicator, called Aerway SSD, applies slurry in narrow bands directly over surface openings made by its ground-driven aerator tines, in one operation. Compared to broadcasting with a conventional splash-plate applicator, the Aerway SSD applies manure more uniformly and with less exposure to the air. Compared to conventional injectors, SSD causes less soil disturbance, requires less power, can be used on stony land, and is available in wider units. Scientific evaluation of this new technology was started in 1999 in order to assess agronomic crop response, nutrient use efficiency, and ammonia loss relative to conventional manure application. This report summarizes first-year results of a study to compare ammonia loss from dairy slurry applied on grassland with the Aerway SSD, surface banding with drop-hoses and conventional broadcasting with a splash-plate.


Two trials (July 21 and August 17) were conducted on a 5-year-old stand of tall fescue and one trial (Sept. 1) was on a 2-year-old stand of orchardgrass. Manure application rates ranged from 70 to 115 kg ammonia-N/ ha and from 55,000 to 75,000 litres/ha. The splash-plate spread a 9-m wide strip; the SSD unit (also used for the drop-hose treatment) was 4.5 m wide. The bands of both the drop-hose and the SSD treatments were spaced 19 cm apart. The soil openings made by the Aerway SSD, set at 2.5 degree offset, measured 15- to 18-cm deep, 20-cm long and were spaced 20-cm apart in the row.


There are different methods for measuring volatilization losses of ammonia following land application of manure. The micro-meteorological method uses small samplers mounted at different heights on towers located around the perimeter of a treated area. This method does not affect the airflow over the soil but large plots (at least 20 by 20m) are required. In contrast, the semi-open chamber technique, used in this study, does not require large plots so a larger number of treatments can be monitored at once. However, these chambers restrict airflow, reducing ammonia loss, and hence capture smaller amounts of ammonia than the methods that use either ventilated chambers or no chambers at all. Nevertheless, previous work has shown that the semi-open chamber can reveal relative differences among application technologies. Results from the micro-meteorological study will be summarized in a future report.

The ammonia in these chambers was trapped in sorption pads soaked in acid. Ammonia extracted from the sorption pads was quantified with a flow injection autoanalyser. Three chambers were used for each experimental plot. Ammonia samples were collected 1, 2, lete and 13 days after manure was applied.

Photos below show manure application with the SSD and splash-plate applicators at approx. 7,000 gal/acre (70,000l/ha).


Trial 1 (See Table 1)

In Trial 1, ammonia losses for Day 1, Day 2 and total losses over the 13-day measurement period had the ranking: splash-plate > drop-hose > Aerway SSD. Total ammonia loss from manure applied with the Aerway SSD was 33% lower (significant at P

Table 1. Ammonia loss after application of dairy manure-slurry with different implements in Trial 1 started on July 21, 1999



----Ammonia Loss(kg/ha)----

. Splash-plate Hose Aerway SE*
Day 1 3.95a** 3.19a 1.93b 0.33
Day 2 1.16a 1.07a 0.74a 0.04
Day 3-5 1.18a 1.31a 1.03a 0.18
Day 6-13 1.07a 1.29a 1.15a 0.04

** Treatment means in each row that are followed by the same letter are not statistically different at P*Y Standard error

Trial 2 (See Table 2)

In Trial 2, ammonia losses in Day 1 and total losses over the 14-day measurement period had the same ranking as in Trial 1: splash-plate > hose > Aerway SSD. After Day 1, emissions were low with no significant differences among treatments. Total ammonia loss over the measurement period was significantly (P

Table 2. Ammonia loss after application of dairy manure-slurry with different implements in Trail 2 started on Aug. 17, 1999



----Ammonia Loss(kg/ha)----

. Splash-plate Hose Aerway SE*
Day 1 7.52a 3.30b 3.15b 0.60
Day 2 1.09a 0.90a 0.87a 0.10
Day 3 0.40a 0.27a 0.30a 0.06
Day 4-16 0.41a 0.48a 0.44a 0.09
Day 7-14 0.16a 0.12a 0.15a 0.02
Total (Day 1-14) 9.58a 5.07a 4.91a 0.77
** Treatment means in each row that are followed by the same letter are not statistically different at P* Y Standard error

Trial 3 (See Table 3)

Ammonia loss for all periods, and the total over all periods, was greater for the splash-plate than the Aerway SSD. Highest ammonia emissions were measured during this trial, probably due to the warm conditions that are conducive to volatilization of ammonia. Ammonia losses were significantly lower for the Aerway SSD than the splash-plate in all Periods (except Day 3-5), and for the entire period by 62%. Ammonia losses during the first day were 64% and 71% of the total measured over 13 day for the splash-plate and Aerway SSD applicators, respectively. Ammonia emission from the non-manured plots (control) over 13-day measurement period averaged 0.14 kg/ha.

Table 3. Ammonia loss after application of dairy manure-slurry with different implements in Trial 3 on Sept. 1, 1999



----Ammonia Loss(kg/ha)----

. Splash-plate Aerway SE*
Day 1 8.59a** 3.67b 0.42
Day 2 1.58a 0.48b 0.03
Day 3-5 1.54a 0.40a 0.28
Day 5-13 1.50a 0.42b 0.14
Total (Day 1-13) 13.21a 4.97b 0.86

** Treatment means in each row that are followed by the same letter are not statistically different at P* Y Standard error

Observations & Acknowledgements

Some Observations

Results from the three trials showed significantly lower ammonia emission losses (33%, 47%, and 62%) for the Aerway SSD manure applicator compared with the splash-plate. Average reduction in ammonia emission loss by the Aerway SSD, over the three trials, was 47%.

Results for banding manure with the drop hoses were less consistent, but on average, intermediate between the splash-plate and the SSD.

  • Over half of the total amount of ammonia loss occurred during the first day in all trials; this proportion was greater for the splash-plate than the SSD.
  • Differences among methods were less apparent after Day2.
  • Results presented in this report are preliminary. Additional results using the micro-meteorological technique and from trials conducted in the year 2000 will be summarized in a future report.


We are grateful to the following people for their contribution to this project: F. Bounaix, A. Friesen, S. Briant, M. Schaber, X. Wu, C. Vanlaerhoven. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support by BC Investment Agriculture, Agriculture Canada Matching Investment Initiative and Holland Hitch Ltd.

L.J.P. van Vliet, S. Bittman, and E.A. Kenney

Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Box 1000, Agassiz, B.C. Canada V0M 1AO

Contact: Laurens van Vliet (604-796-2221 ext.223) or E-mail

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Fall & Winter Manure Management Information for the Okanagan/Shuswap (1996)

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Goal: To prevent contaminated runoff from entering surface or groundwaters.

Issue: Excess nutrients entering into surface waters in the Shuswap/Okanagan have resulted in reduced water quality. Runoff from manured fields is believed to be a significant source of these nutrients. Manure may also carry pathogens which, together with excess nutrients, may reduce downstream water quality for drinking or recreation.

Producer Responsibility: Manure must be applied to land only as a fertilizer or a soil conditioner. Producers are responsible for ensuring that contaminated runoff from their fields does not enter watercourses (i.e. ditches, streams, marshes, rivers or lakes).

What is Contaminated Runoff? Water is contaminated if it exceeds the water quality objectives for the water course it enters.

Rule of Thumb: If the water running off of a manured field is brown in color, it is clearly contaminated

What can Producers Do?

In order to prevent or reduce the risk of contaminated runoff from entering a watercourse, producers should not spread manure:

  • within 5 in of a bank or slope leading to a watercourse;
  • within 30 in of any well, stream or spring used for domestic purposes. These distances should be increased where the ground slopes toward the stream, watercourse or well;
  • on steep or very long shallow slopes where erosion and/or surface runoff is likely to occur;
  • on saturated soils or in areas of standing water where manure will not infiltrate into the soil; and
  • within the high water mark of field depressions during times of the year when there is a risk of direct surface runoff to a water course.

Fall and winter application rates of should not exceed the total annual nutrient requirements of the crop. Fields receiving manure should have a good level of vegetative cover or crop residue present. Avoid tilling under crop residue as this may increase the risk of soil and manure loss in runoff. A crop specialist can advise the producer on a suitable application rate.

Uncontaminated runoff (clean water) should be diverted around pens, exercise yards, manured fields, or other areas where contamination is likely to occur. lf contarnination of some runoff is likely, facilities should be constructed (storages, berms, swales etc.) to contain that runoff until it can be spread as a fertilizer.

Rule of Thumb: If runoff water is clean ? keep it clean!

Application Conditions

1. Manure application to unfrozen ground in fall.

This is a good time to apply manure to many corn or grassland sites as most of the manure nutrients will be available for the crop next spring. Avoid wet areas, areas close to a watercourse and fine textured soils with long or steep slopes.

Rule of Thumb: If there has been runoff or flooding in previous years ? don't apply manure to that field.

2. Manure application to frozen ground in fall or winter

This practice is not recommended on most fields. The risk of contaminated runoff from this practice is high. If you must apply manure to frozen ground then apply to grassland or standing grain stubble where soils are coarser textured, and where slopes are shallow. Stay well away from water courses.

Rule of Thumb: Fields which have had runoff, even if only in some years, should be avoided as the risk of runoff is high.

3. Manure application to snow covered ground.

This practice is not recommended ? and may be further restricted in future if spring runoff continues to occur. Manure applied to snow is most at risk to create contaminated runoff. This is due to an increased rate of melt and limited potential for the manure to bind to the soil or crop residue. If you must apply manure to snow covered ground use fields that are level or have a shallow slope, are well away from a watercourse, have coarse textured soils, have a northern exposure (aspect) and have significant vegetative cover.

Rule of Thumb: Fields which have had runoff at snowmelt, even if only in some years, should be avoided as the risk of runoff is high.

BC Environment Role & Intentions

Enforcement of the Agricultural Waste Control Regulation is the mandate of BC Environment. Resolution of the "manure contaminated runoff' issue is essential to the success of a self regulated, environmentally sustainable agricultural industry. The Ministry is working actively with producer groups to substantively eliminate manure contaminated runoff within a tight time frame to meet BC Environment regulations and public expectations.

Responsibility for compliance with the Regulation rests with the producer. The Ministry is prepared to work with producers to find solutions where unusual circumstances exist. Producers who continue to experience contaminated runoff are in violation of the Regulation and are subject to enforcement under the Waste Management Act.

Contacts for more information

BC Environment

Barb John, Agricultural Impact Officer, Kamloops, (250) 371-6299
Ron Townson, Environmental Protection Officer, Penticton, (250) 490-8276

BC Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

Brian Harper, District Agriculturist, Salmon Arm, (250) 832-1629
Ted Moore, District Agrologist, Kamloops, (250)371-6052
Kevin Murphy, District Agriculturist, Vernon, (250) 260-3000
Geoff Hughes-Games, Soil Specialist, Abbotsford, (604) 556-3102

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Dr. Bernie Zebarth, Soil Scientist, Surnmerland, (250) 494-6391

AEPC or Commodity Group Peer Inspectors

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Harris Report Concludes custom Sleightfoot manure application can be economically viable

Research and demonstration trials have clearly shown the agronomic benefits of the sleighfoot manure applicator (SMA). One would think that by now producers would be purchasing the SMA in droves. In reality, the response by producers has been cautious at best.

The main holdback has been financial. Rumors of outrageous costs have hurt the SMA. Even when realistic cost figures are used, producers still shake their heads and say they can spread manure cheaper the way they have been doing it for the last 25 years.

In her report on the viability of the SMA, agricultural consultant Andrea Harris set out to collect the economic facts on this system and present them back to producers in a straightforward manner.

The individual floating feet on the SMA ensure that slurry is deposited in neat bands beneath the leaf canopy of the grass.

The individual floating feet on the SMA ensure that slurry is deposited in neat bands beneath the leaf canopy of the grass.

In the end, Harris's results confirmed the hunch many producers were already feeling. An individual farmer purchasing a new vacuum tank with a SMA attachment will spend more in a year on manure management than a farmer purchasing the same-sized vacuum tank with a splash-plate attachment. But what about looking at some other options?

Using a computer spreadsheet model, Harris looked at a variety of test scenarios. For example, if a custom manure applicator offered a SMA service, would it be financially viable? Or if a farmer purchased a new vacuum tank with a splashplate attachment, would he save money over hiring a custom worker offering a SMA service?

The answers could shape the future of manure application trends in British Columbia. Though SMA ownership does not appear economically viable, manure application with a custom SMA looks very promising.

Assuming custom splashplate manure application on grass costs $15/acre, the farmer can pay up to $50/acre for custom SMA services and still save money. The difference is primarily due to the fertilizer savings a producer can expect with the SMA.

On the surface, the sensitivity analysis looks like the SMA wins in a cakewalk if you are using a custom worker. In reality, the custom worker may take up to twice the time to cover an acre with the SMA. Add to this the potential for hose blockage and the advantage is less than it seems. Still, a custom worker with a well-built SMA should be able to easily apply manure on grass for less than $50/acre.

Using the same assumptions, Harris evaluated hiring a custom SMA service versus purchasing a vacuum tank with a conventional splashplate applicator. She concluded that unless the farmer is growing over 150 acres of grass, the advantage goes to the custom SMA service.

Beyond the economic evaluation, Harris notes that some account must be made for a number on non-monetary benefits associated with the sleighfoot application system. These benefits include:

  • Reduced risk;
  • Flexibility in terms of application;
  • A reduction in odors;
  • Reduced environmental impact.

Because manure is applied in bands beneath the grass canopy, the risks associated with burning or fouling grass regrowth are reduced significantly. This provides farmers with greater flexibility in terms of applying manure after harvest. Reduced odors can be particularly important for farms located near urban areas. Finally, a reduced need for chemical fertilizers and a more efficient use of nitrogen provides environmental benefits in addition to cost savings.

Depending on the value farmers place on these non-monetary benefits, the SMA may be a viable alternative to conventional manure application methods. .

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Next Page:  AG-Canada Study Shows Slurry Can Replace Fertilizer Nitrogen On Grassland.

Managing Manure for Top Grass Production


Shabtai Bittman, Grant Kowalenko, Naveen Patni and Derek Hunt.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Agassiz, BC


We started our research on manure by asking the question "why do farmers apply more manure on corn than on grass?" Logically more manure should be applied to grass than corn because:

grass takes up more soil nutrients than corn

grass produces almost twice as much protein on a given land area compared to corn

grass can receive manure all summer long, not just spring and fall

grass provides a permanent cover that resists wintertime losses by leaching, runoff and erosion.

Our initial studies were designed to test the efficacy of manure nitrogen relative to fertilizer for grass production. We also wanted to determine if efficacy of manure is affected by the method of application.

Phase 1: Short term efficiency of manure on grass

We carried out 9 trials in 1994-96 to compare the response of grass (tall fescue) to dairy slurry relative to fertilizer. The slurry was either broadcast with a conventional splash plate or surface-banded with the sleighfoot (drag shoe) applicator. The trials were conducted in spring, summer and fall so that all weather conditions and grass conditions would be taken into account.

A summary of these trials is presented in Figure 1. Grass growth responded to N fertilizer in the usual manner. Note that yield response to fertilizer is greater in the spring than in the summer or autumn, showing that grass crops need more nitrogen in spring.

How well did the grass respond to manure? The figure shows that the grass receiving manure from the sleighfoot applicator (triangles) responded similarly to the fertilizer in most cases, whereas grass that received manure from the splash plate applicator often yielded less. Of the 9 trials conducted, manure applied with the splash plate performed well in 5 and poorly in 4. In contrast, the sleighfoot manure performed within a few percent of fertilizer in all trials! The significance of this finding is that with the technology available, farmers cannot expect to get reliable results by applying manure on grass. This may explain the reluctance of farmers to rely on manure as the main fertilizer source for their grass crops. Why was the sleighfoot applicator more effective than the splash plate? The main reason is that banding manure on the soil surface conserves the nitrogen in the manure. Most of the readily available nitrogen in manure is in the ammonia form and ammonia is very volatile. We have recent data that shows that the new SSD manure applicator (manufactured by AERWAY, Norwich, Ont), which bands manure over openings made in the soil, reduces ammonia emission by 50%. There is also recent data from Texas A&M University that shows that the SSD substantially reduces odour emission.

To be effective as a nutrient source, manure must be applied uniformly. Splash plate applicators typically have variability of 30-60%, and under windy conditions, the variability is even greater. In contrast, the variability of the manure banding is typically less than 10%, even under windy conditions. In comparison to manure injectors which have the virtues of conserving ammonia and uniform application, the sleighfoot and SSD applicators band closer together, do not tear up the grass (allowing multiple applications), and require little additional horsepower. Also, manure can be spread faster by surface banding than injection; sleighfoot and SSD applicators that are 6 m (20 feet) wide, or more, are available.

Another impediment to the use of manure instead of fertilizer on grass is the amount of time it takes to spread all the fields. Often the grass starts to grow back before all the fields can be spread. Producers are concerned that the manure will contaminate and possibly burn the new growth. Banding applicators greatly reduce contamination because they deposit the manure beneath the canopy.

Fig 1. AYield of tall fescue as affected by NH4NO3 fertilizer and dairy slurry spread with splash plate and drag shoe applicators in spring, summer, and autumn (1994-96).

Since manure application is relatively slow, how does delayed application of manure affect grass response? In our studies, we found that an 8-10 day delay in application is similar with fertilizer or manure; there is a slight reduction in yield (see Fig. 1) but a slight gain in crude protein content. We were concerned that delayed application might cause high nitrate levels but this was not observed. Interestingly, workers in Denmark have shown that when manure is surface-banded under a grass canopy, more ammonia is conserved because there is less air movement and some of the ammonia is directly absorbed into the leaves.

It is important to stress that the short-term comparisons between manure and fertilizer described above are based on equivalent amounts of mineral-N, ignoring the organic-N portion of the manure. In dairy manure, usually half of the total N is in the mineral form. Hence the manured treatments received twice the amount of total N compared to the fertilized treatments. A comparison of the long-term effects of applying fertilizer and manure on grass is described below.

Fig 1. AYield of tall fescue as affected by NH4NO3 fertilizer and dairy slurry spread with splash plate and drag shoe applicators in spring, summer, and autumn (1994-96).

Phase II. Long-term effects of manure use on grass

Having shown that, in the short term, manure can be used to replace fertilizer at equivalent rates of mineral-N, we set out to determine the long-term implications of applying manure at these rates. In this study, we compared the effects of multi-year applications of fertilizer and manure at equivalent rates of both mineral-N and total-N. To ensure uniform application, all manure was applied with the sleighfoot applicator in equal amounts for each harvest. The study examined a wide range of effects including grass production, soil chemistry, soil biology, and movement of nutrients.

Grass yield

Based on equivalent rates of mineral-N, manured plots yielded 2-3 t/ha more than fertilized plots (Table 1). This was due, in part, to the manured plots receiving organic N, some of which gradually mineralized into ammonia. However, even based on equivalent amounts of total-N (400 kg/ha, shaded areas in Tables), the manured plots yielded 1 t/ha more than the fertilized plots. From the nitrogen perspective, this was surprising because some of the manure N was incorporated into the soil organic matter (see below).


Treatment Applied
Mineral N
Total N
    -----kg/ha------ t/ha
Control 0 0 7.3
Low N      
Fertilizer 200 200 13.2
Manure 200 400 15.0
High N      
Fertilizer 400 400 14.0
Fert/Man 400 600 16.8
Manure 400 800 16.5
Table 1. Annual dry matter yield of tall fescue (1998-2000) as affected by manure and fertilizer applied since 1994. Fert/Man treatment received alternating applications of fertilizer and manure. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.


The manure plots had higher soil pH, P, K, Zn and other nutrients. The fertilized plots were amended according to soil test (see below) but as discussed in the paper by Grant Kowalenko in this proceedings, it is hard to perfectly balance nutrient requirements with fertilizer. On a farm, such a loss of potential yield would not be apparent unless comparative test strips were employed. The benefit of the manure may include greater biological activity in the soil (see below), which contributes to soil tilth and perhaps other benefits.

Note that the high manure treatment yielded only 1.5 t/ ha (10%) more than the low manure treatment, although it was given 400 kg/ha more total N annually.

Grass stand

The high rate of manure reduced the density of the grass stand and increased the amount of bare soil (Table 2). Weeds were not affected by the treatments. As evident from Table 1, the thin stand of the high-manure plots yielded more that the thicker stands receiving less manure or fertilizer, showing that a thin but weed-free stand can yield well. Often the decline in stand density in manured fields is attributed to wheel traffic but this was not a factor in this study because measurements were made between the wheel tracks. The cause of the decline in stand is not known.

Treatment Applied
Mineral N
Total N
    -----kg/ha------ ---%---
Control 0 0 65
Low N      
Fertilizer 200 200 72
Manure 200 400 73
High N      
Fertilizer 400 400 69
Fert/Man 400 600 63
Manure 400 800 58
Table 2. Percent ground cover of tall fescue in 1998 as affected by manure and fertilizer applied annually since 1994. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.


Nitrogen uptake and protein content

At the same rate of applied mineral-N, manured plots took up 40-50 kg/ha more N than fertilized plots (Table 3). However, at equivalent rates of total-N (400 kg/ha), the fertilized plots took up 60 kg/ha more N than the manured plots. Also, the fertilized plots contained over 4% units more crude protein. Even at equivalent rates of mineral-N, crude protein was similar or better on the fertilized plots than the manured plots. Interestingly, the plots receiving both manure and fertilizer took up the most N.

These results show that manure favours yield but fertilizer favours N-uptake and protein content. Two factors may contribute to this: 1. manure-N is less available to plants than fertilizer-N because of competition by soil microbes which is enhanced by the carbon in the manure (see below) and 2. manure has benefits additional to N . That manure enhances yield more than protein may be an advantage because high concentrations of easily degraded grass protein are used inefficiently by dairy cows.

Treatment Applied

Mineral N


Total N





--kg/ha-- ---%---
Control 0 0 136 11.7
Low N        
Fertilizer 200 200 292 14.0
Manure 200 400 336 13.9
High N        
Fertilizer 400 400 395 18.2
Fert/Man 400 600 474 17.3
Manure 400 800 443 16.6
Table 3. N-uptake and crued protein concentration of tall fescue (1998-99) as affected by manure and fertilizer applied from 1994. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.

The yield and protein results taken together suggest that manure applied annually at 200 kg mineral N/ ha would be nearly adequate for yield but inadequate for protein production. These results suggest that the optimum manure application rate on a productive grass stand would be around 275 kg/ha of mineral N or 550 kg/ha of total N. At this application rate, the crop would remove between 340 to 440 kg/ha of N. Taking a mean value of 380 kg/ha of N removed, N use efficiency based on total-applied N would be about 70% which is quite realistic.

Biological activity in the soil

Treatment Applied Mineral N Applied
Total N
Bacteria Protozoa Nematodes
celss/micro-g soil celss/mg soil /100 g soil
Control 0 0 600 168 246
Low N          
Fertilizer 200 200 --- --- ---
Manure 200 400 763 263 1017
High N          
Fertilizer 400 400 521 107 268
Manure 400 800 931 533 1092
Table 4. Bacteria, protozoa, and nematodes in the soil (1998) as affected by manure and fertilizer applied from 1994. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.


Application of manure greatly increased microbial populations in the soil whereas fertilizer either decreased or had no effect on microbial populations (Table 4). The bacteria compete with plants for mineral nitrogen so less is available for crop growth in the short term (referred to as immobilization). Immobilization may help to explain the relatively low uptake of N in manured plots. When bacteria are consumed by protozoa, and when both bacteria and protozoa are consumed by nematodes, mineral N is released and available again to plants and bacteria (called mineralization). This 'microbial food web' mitigates against nitrogen leaching from manured grassland soils (see below).

High rates of manure also favour populations of earthworms and carnivorous ground beetles that feed on earthworms and other insects (Table 5). The increased populations of invertebrates improve soil tilth and distribution of nutrients.

Treatment Applied

Mineral N


Total N





/trap /sample
Control 0 0 24 30
Low N        
Fertilizer 200 200 30 25
Manure 200 400 26 31
High N        
Fertilizer 400 400 27 23
Fert/Man 400 600 34 38
Manure 400 800 38 43
Table 5. Earthworms and ground beetles (1998) as affected by manure and fertilizer applied from 1994. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.

Build-up of total nitrogen, carbon and organic matter in the soil

Manure application produced an increase of soil organic matter, total soil carbon and total soil N compared to fertilizer and control (Table 6). The increase in organic matter and carbon signifies an improvement in the quality of the soil and shows that the soil can help store carbon which may have implications for reducing greenhouse gases. Most of the nitrogen is organic and represents a stable pool in the soil.

Treatment Applied

Mineral N


Total N

Total Soil


Total Soil




Control 0 0 3.45 0.29 8.1
Low N          
Fertilizer 200 200 3.21 0.27 7.8
Manure 200 400 3.82 0.31 8.7
High N          
Fertilizer 400 400 3.56 0.30 7.8
Manure 400 800 3.81 0.31 8.7
Table 6. Percent total soil carbon, nitrogen and organic matter (1998) in the upper 15 cm of soil as affected by rate of manure and fertilizer applied since 1994. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.

Effect of manure and fertilizer history on uptake of nitrogen from the soil

The amount of nitrogen released from the soil was determined in 1998 from plots that did not receive any nutrients in that year. The historically unfertilized (control) plots released 133 kg/ha of N while the historically fertilized plots (200 and 400 kg/ha annually) released only 10-15 kg/ha more N than the unfertilized plots (Table 7). In contrast, the manured plots released 60-110 kg/ha more N than the fertilized plots at equivalent rates of mineral-N. At equivalent rate of total-N, the manured plots released 60 kg/ha of N more than the fertilized plots.

These results demonstrate the short-term immobilization of some manure N. The results also help to explain lower N uptake by the grass in the manured than in the fertilized plots and the increase in soil N (see above). Data not shown here demonstrate that the release of nitrogen is mainly form the manure applied in the previous year; manure applied two or more years prior contributed little to release of N, suggesting that it is stable.

Treatment Applied

Mineral N


Mineral N

Control 0 0 113
Low N      
Fertilizer 200 200 123
Manure 200 400 186
High N      
Fertilizer 400 400 129
Fert/Man 400 600 223
Manure 400 800 241
Table 7. Effect of application of manure and fertilizer in previous years (starting 1994) on uptake of soil N by tall fescue in 1998. (No nutrients applied in 1998). Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.

Residual soil nitrate in the fall and movement of nitrates in the soil

Residual soil nitrate in Nov. 1999 was quite low for all plots, including those receiving high rates of manure (Table 8). The low levels may be the result of a number of factors such as immobilization, losses to the environment by denitrification and by dilution due to heavy rainfall. Plots receiving high fertilizer rates contained about twice the nitrates as plots receiving low fertilizer or manure at high or low rate.


Mineral N


Total N


Soil Nitrate


Control 0 0 4 5 4
Low N          
Fertilizer 200 200 5 5 4
Manure 200 400 6 5 5
High N          
Fertilizer 400 400 11 12 8
Manure 400 800 6 5 5
Table 8. Residual nitrate in three soil layers on Nov. 1, 1999 as affected by application of manure and fertilizer starting in 1994. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.

The concentration of nitrates in the soil solution was tested in 1997 through the winter of 2000 using suction lysimeters placed at 60 and 90 cm depths in the soil. The concentration of nitrate in the soil solution was low most of the year, with peaks coinciding with the start of the rainy period around Nov. Absence of leaching in the spring and summer was previously reported by Dr. Grant Kowalenko of our research centre.

The magnitudes of the peaks for the high manure and fertilizer treatments in the figure appear to increase from year to year, suggesting that the nutrient application was gradually overtaking the stabilizing capacity of the soil. The peak in autumn of 1999 reached about 27 ppm for the high manure plots and 22 ppm for the high fertilizer plots.

Other nutrients

Increasing levels of soil P and K are a concern when high rates of manure are applied over many years.


Mineral N


Total N


Soil Phosphorous


Control 0 0 135 89 25
Low N          
Fertilizer 200 200 133 94 21
Manure 200 400 162 102 32
High N          
Fertilizer 400 400 136 99 27
Manure 400 800 194 129 22
Table 9. Concentration of P in 3 soil layers sampled in Oct. 1999 as affected by manure and fertilizer applied starting in 1994. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total-N.


Mineral N


Total N


Soil Potassium


Control 0 0 108 82 101
Low N          
Fertilizer 200 200 33 31 90
Manure 200 400 122 99 112
High N          
Fertilizer 400 400 41 28 70
Manure 400 800 293 146 152
Table 10. Concentration of K in 3 soil layers sampled in Oct. 1999 as affected by manure and fertilizer applied starting in 1994. Shaded rows are at equivalent values of applied total N.



Manure Management Guidelines For The Lower Fraser Valley (2001)

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BC Environment will continue to ensure compliance with the Agricultural Waste Regulation to protect the environment. The following guidelines were prepared in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Foods (MAFF), the Agricultural Environmental Protection Council (AEPC), various commodity groups and Producer Conservation Groups. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Environment Canada were also part of the consultation process.

These guidelines are intended to help producers identify activities which, under certain conditions, have a high risk of being out of compliance with the Code of Agricultural Practice for Waste Management (the Code).

Goal: Compliance with the Code.

Issue: An excess of nutrients and other contaminants entering surface and groundwater in the Lower Fraser Valley have resulted in reduced water quality. During high risk periods, runoff from manured fields and uncovered manure piles has been a significant source of excess nutrients and other contaminants in surface and ground water.

Producer Responsibility: Under the Code, manure must be applied to land only as a fertilizer or soil conditioner. Because most manures have a high nutrient content they should be managed primarily as a fertilizer and secondarily as a soil conditioner.

Note: Manure should be applied at the same times of year as inorganic (chemical) fertilizer would normally be applied.

Runoff must not be allowed to pollute watercourses (ditches, streams, etc.) or groundwater supplies.

Producer Benefit: Manure is an important resource and an integral component in a wide variety of sustainable agricultural systems. When applied at appropriate agronomic rates during the growing season, manure can be a valuable source of plant nutrients and organic matter.

Managing Risks

Spreading manure during any high rainfall not recommended because of the potential of causing pollution. During these periods:

  • the risk of contaminated runoff entering into watercourses is high, and
  • the risk of groundwater contamination due to leaching is high.

In order to meet the Code it is recommended that manure not be applied:

  • on land where runoff is likely to occur;
  • on snow or frozen ground; or
  • at rates which exceed the amount required for crop growth.

High Rainfall/High Risk Periods: November, December and January

Moderate Rainfall/Moderate Risk Periods: September, October and February, March.

The next 5 items discuss the risks of: spreading manure on established grassland, cover crops and fall seeded grassland, berry crops, and bare land; and uncovered manure piles.

1. Spreading Manure on Established Grassland

A grass relay cropped with corn is considered to be the same as grassland providing it is well established. Grasslands planted after September I st should be treated the same as a cover crop (see Item 2 below).

To reduce the risk of contaminated runoff or leaching of nutrients to groundwater during the moderate and high risk periods it is recommended that:

  • manure not be spread during November, December, and January (periods of high risk);
  • not more than approximately 1/4 of the annual nutrient requirements be spread during September and October (periods of moderate risk);
  • not more than approximately 1/3 of the annual nutrient requirements be spread during February and March (periods of moderate risk); or
  • not be spread closer than 10 metres (30 ft.) from ditches and streams (periods of high to moderate risk ? September to March).

2. Spreading Manure on Cover Crops and Fall Seeded Grassland

A cover crop, planted in the spring or summer or grassland planted before September 1st and actively growing in the fall, has the same environmental concerns and recommendations as grassland (see Item 1 above).

To reduce the risk of contaminating surface or ground water it is recommended that:

  • a cover crop or grassland planted in the fall (after the beginning of September) should not receive manure in the fall as there is usually enough nitrogen remaining in the soil to meet cover crop or grassland needs at that time; or
  • a cover crop or grassland planted in the fall, for which the need for nitrogen has been confirmed by a soil test, may have some manure applied during September and October; and
  • manure be applied after January only if the cover crop or grassland is well established.

3. Spreading Manure on Berry Crops

To reduce the risk of contaminating surface water or groundwater it is recommended that:

  • manure not be spread from July to mid February, inclusive; and
  • when preparing a field for planting the following year refer to Item 4, Spreading Manure on Bare Land.

4. Spreading Manure on Bare Land:

Bare land includes lands from which crops have been harvested (corn, vegetables, etc.), poorly established cover crops, or grass which has been killed. For Raspberry crops see Item 3.

From mid?September until the beginning of March is considered a high risk period for spreading manure on bare land. During this period spreading manure on bare land as a fertilizer can not be justified.

The month of March is considered a moderate risk period. To reduce the risk of contaminated runoff or leaching of nutrients to groundwater, it is recommended that:

  • manure be spread only if the land will soon be planted;
  • manure not be spread closer than 10 metres (30 ft.) from ditches and streams; and
  • manure not be spread on land if runoff is likely to occur.

5. Uncovered Manure Piles

The Code requires that field stored agricultural waste be securely and completely covered with a waterproof material from October lst to April lst, inclusive.

Compliance with the Code

Non-compliance with the Code may result in the following action:

Uncovered Manure Piles:

A Pollution Prevention Order may be served allowing one week to comply. Non-compliance may result in a ticket or formal charges under the Waste Management Act.

Manure Application (not used as a fertilizer or likely to cause pollution):

  • efforts will be made to involve peer advisors to resolve the issue as set out in the MoU;
  • in some cases MELP staff will respond directly;
  • application of manure which causes pollution may result in formal charges under the Waste Management Act; and
  • a Pollution Prevention Order may be considered. One of the requirements of the Order may be that a Best Agricultural Waste Management Plan be developed.

If you spread manure during high risk periods there is a good chance that you are not in compliance with the Code. If you are unable to comply with the Code please contact MELP. Staff will try to work with you to develop a solution to the problem as best they can.

Further Information

Producers are encouraged to refer to their commodity's "environmental guidelines" prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in cooperation with their producer associations. The guidelines describe generally acceptable farming practices. However, there may be some portions of the guidelines which do not apply to every farm. In such cases it is the responsibility of the individual producer to consider other management options, as well as these guidelines, to prevent pollution.

Producers may also consider the development of a Best Agricultural Waste Management Plan/ (BAWMP) Nutrient Management Plan (NMP). A BAWMP and a NMP are formal environmental evaluations of a farm by a professional qualified in the field of agricultural environmental assessment. These evaluations will assist the producer in organizing a comprehensive plan that results in the integration of environmentally safe waste and nutrient management practices into overall farm operations. Producers who want a BAWMP and/or NMP prepared for their farm should contact their local MAFF office.

For further information on environmentally sustainable farming, contact:

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food
Resource Management Branch:

Agricultural Protection Advisory Service:

These guidelines have been prepared by MELP in consultation with MAFF AEPC & Producer Conservation Groups. For further information on the Code and this guideline please contact:

Bev Locken - 1-604-582-5340

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Manure Powers Forage Crop Benefits (2005)

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Management practices that extend the life of a forage crop may make more economic and environmental sense than spending time and money to start over.

When it comes to hay and pastureland productivity, Paul Cowger and Brian Clarke have seen the power of manure. The B.C. Peace River Region farmers both describe a dramatic difference in forage stands on their respective farms after manure application. The producers from the Fort St. John area participated in a multi-agency funded forage and nutrient management project. Part of that funding came from the federally funded Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program (GHGMP).

Cowger, who runs a cow/calf and hay operation near Montney, says manure significantly increased the carrying capacity of an older alfalfa and timothy pasture he manured in the fall of 2002. "We saw a very good response in grass production in 2003," he says. The manure application was combined with a tined aerator tillage treatment that aerated the pasture soil. The increased forage growth allowed Cowger to extend the grazing period on the manured field by about two weeks with more head of cattle.

Clarke made similar observations on his family run beef, dairy and grain operation at Sunrise, east of Fort St. John. He applied manure to a 10-year-old hay field on a northeast-facing slope where most of the alfalfa had died in recent years. "By far, manure produced the best response of any of the treatments," he says, referring to other parts of the field that received various combinations of commercial fertilizer.

Although yields varied across the field, the manured area had more lush, vigorous growth that produced up to a tonne more hay per acre than the fertilized area. And, crude protein increased by three percent.

Distance is a Factor
While manure is an effective treatment, it not always a perfect option, say both producers. "It works well if you have enough manure," says Cowger. Clarke noted that "you can't forget the economics. It costs money to haul manure, so you need forage land within a reasonable distance of your manure source."

The nutrient management project involving forages was part of a multi-year demonstration project funded from a variety of sources, says Sandra Burton, forage co-ordinator of the Peace River Forage Association (PRFA), and regional co-ordinator of the GHGMP.

The forage project was launched three years ago with support from industry, producer and provincial government sources, and continued last year with further assistance from GHGMP funds.

Reports of increased winterkill of pasture and hay stands in recent years prompted a look at the nutrient needs of forages, says Burton. The PRFA surveyed more than 50 fields. "It varied from year to year, with some producers seeing only patches of winterkill and others finding whole fields dead," she says.

Several factors contribute to winterkill of forages. Disease, cold temperatures and little or no snow cover are often what ultimately kill the plants. But, severity and timing of grazing, wildlife pressure, hay-cutting practices and poor regrowth conditions can weaken plants.

"If plants haven't fully recovered from harvest and haven't stored the necessary reserves in their root system, they are more susceptible to winterkill," says Burton.

Proper fertility of both injured and healthy stands is particularly important to maintain productive pastures and hay land. "In many cases fields are just tired and hungry," she says. "Most producers invest in fertilizer for their annual crop land, but as a general practice, it hasn't been a priority with hay and pasture. There may be manure additions to the field but not in proportion to what is being taken off by haying or grazing."

There are several benefits to keeping forage stands vigorous and productive for as long as possible. Along with the cost of breaking fields to re-establish new stands, the production from those fields is lost for at least one season. Poorly performing forage stands also have reduced capacity for capturing carbon dioxide and storing carbon in the soil. That process known as carbon sequestering helps reduce the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

Range of treatments
With funding partners that included Norwest Labs, Beef Cattle Industry Development Fund and GHGMP, Burton established field scale plot comparisons for a range of treatments.

One plot with no treatments served as the check, while other plots received a complete fertilizer blend as recommended by a soil test: sulphur only, potassium only, or manure only.

"As with everything in cropping, moisture is the key," says Burton. "There was less of a response in drier years, but when we had the moisture there was definitely a yield response to fertility, and manure appeared to have a greater effect than commercial fertilizer.

"Along with increased production of pasture and hay, improved fertility also improves forage quality, which can be a bonus in winter-feeding programs, especially in years when there may be a shortage of hay," says Burton.

With higher quality hay, supported by a nutrient analysis, the PRFA was able to show producers how to formulate rations that stretch winter feed supplies. "Producers can feed cattle less of the higher quality hay, supplement with straw and still maintain cattle in good condition," she says.

"Maintaining a vigorous and productive forage stand in most cases makes more economic sense than plowing down and starting over, or clearing another quarter section to make new pasture," says Burton. "Improved fertility reduces the risk of winterkill, and can produce more, high quality forage. Producers obviously need to keep economics in mind, but they need to consider all benefits that stem from improved fertility."

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Not all Manure is Created Equal (2009)

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This article has been submitted by Planistics (Penergetic Canada).

Not all Manure is Created Equal - submitted article in pdf format.

Be it liquid manure from a hog or dairy farm, solid manure from a cattle feedlot or litter from a poultry operation, there can be dramatic differences in the quality of nutrients in the manure, its beneficial characteristics for soil and crops and its impact on neighbours and the environment.

Unfortunately, still today, the most common form of manure management practiced at farms in western Canada often involves “no treatment” at all. For instance: take your typical modern dairy farm: automatic scrappers push manure from the alleys in a free stall barn into an interim storage pit from which the slurry is subsequently pumped to a storage lagoon and eventually spread back on the farm’s fields. If left untreated, an anaerobic process becomes established in this stored slurry which can lead to a problem situation: floating layers and/or solidified sedimentation layers in the slurry tank or lagoon; a need for extensive agitation before applying the slurry; an acrid, pungent smell in the area of barns and pits; gas emissions during stirring and application of the slurry; potential burning and scorching of crops after application and many other problems. Often despite the farmer’s best efforts, the slurry fails to produce the desired fertilizing effect. This leads to the application of additional fertilizers and other crop protection measures.

The underlying problem – putrefaction

Typically, slurry will become a problematic waste product when conversion takes place by means of putrefaction processes. This involves decay under anaerobic conditions, i.e. in the absence of oxygen. Anaerobic conversion of slurry leads to the development of malodorous gases, including hydrogen sulphide and ammonia, and odourless methane gas. Also problematic, the odour carriers in manure – indole and skatole (3-methylindole) – attract harmful insects. These insects lay their eggs in the slurry, and the subsequent larvae are contained in the slurry which is applied to the crops, leading to crop damage and the need to apply pesticides. Furthermore, the valuable substance ammonium nitrogen is lost in the anaerobic slurry, because ammonium is converted into ammonia (off gases by volatilization) and is no longer available for plants.

Oxygen through aeration

The conventional method of introducing oxygen into the slurry involves mechanical aeration by means of agitators or compressors. However, this technical method becomes problematic when dealing with large quantities of slurry which cannot be stirred effectively every day. Floating layers then quickly form, further sealing off the slurry from the oxygen supply and thus strengthening the anaerobic environment. The capital cost and annual energy costs of lagoon agitation can also be considerable.

The natural solution – decomposition

But there is another way! The simple and natural solution to turn slurry into a valuable organic fertilizer involves activating those decomposition processes in the slurry, which only take place with oxygen. The decomposition processes involve mould fungi, yeasts and other microorganisms and include several biological processes which are absolutely vital to maintaining a state of equilibrium in nature. Mould fungi very quickly bind any ammonia which is present in the first stage of the rotting/decomposition process to form ammonium nitrogen, which is subsequently available to plants as a slow release source of nitrogen. The harmful and unpleasant biogases are also largely eliminated, providing for a noticeable difference in the pit/lagoon or storage tank (e.g. SlurryStore®) and during application. A healthy, decomposed slurry thus constitutes an important element of a closed substance cycle management system which benefits the soil, plants, animals and humans alike.

Activating sludge

The best solution is a simple method which activates the aerobic bacteria, while avoiding the need for agitation (or external energy) and other factors detrimental to the environment. Penergetic g (a product from Switzerland, now available in Canada, through Penergetic Canada), possesses the specific active properties of oxygen and reactivates the life processes in slurry. The putrefactive bacteria die and the oxygen which is present in the slurry is aerobically activated. An oxygen-producing and breathing biomass quickly results. The micro algae which develop change the colour of the slurry to dark green and the work performed by the bacteria renders the slurry homogeneous. In the course of time, existing floating layers and sedimentation layers dissolve. As a natural side-effect of these processes, the smell is diminished and a more nutrient rich valuable organic fertilizer results. Using the decomposed (or rotted) slurry produced in this manner enables the quantity of commercial fertilizer used to be reduced.

This information was recently presented at the Pacific Agriculture Show in Abbotsford, B.C, by Derek Pratt of Penergetic Canada, in a seminar titled: Sustainable Manure Management. Pratt pointed out the striking differences in the quality and effects of anaerobic and aerobic manure (see comparison in table below). It was also noted that while farming areas in Europe and elsewhere in the world have long ago recognized the environmental and agronomic advantages to be gained from aerobic manure treatment, too often farmers in Canada still seem content to allow manure to loose much of its nutrient quality, create odours and potential pathogenic or insect problems and be more prone to impact on ground and surface water quality.

By drawing upon the experience of dairy farmers in Europe, it was pointed out that when dairy liquid and dry manures are broken down via an aerobic process (instead of the more common and less desirable anaerobic process) a number of positive benefits are achieved – including a dramatic reduction in the unpleasant ammonia and carbon monoxide odours often assumed as inevitable in conjunction with livestock rearing. Owing to higher population density, stricter government regulations and a longer history of agricultural use, farmers in Western Europe have been confronted with the need to develop appropriate means of manure handling sooner than has been the case in western Canada.

New developments in manure management technology from Europe enable liquid and solid animal wastes to be processed effectively, economically and in an environmentally-responsible manner, without the requirement for expensive capital expenditures or equipment. It was pointed out how the “aerobic approach” to manure management is increasingly gaining favour around the world and how some of the leading livestock rearing U.S. states have initiated a shift from anaerobic to aerobic methods of processing animal wastes. Seminar presenter, Derek Pratt of Penergetic Canada stated: “Over 10,000 dairy farms in Europe have adopted an aerobic approach to manure management as the benefits speak for themselves”.

The implications of this sustainable approach to manure management were overviewed in terms of overcoming the main “nuisance” implications commonly associated with animal manure – e.g. odour, pathogens, and land, air and water pollution, while at the same time producing a better nutrient rich end product to apply back on the fields. Also discussed were the important agronomic benefits of this approach, the resulting benefits for animal and worker health, methods of composting and field application of manure.

Easy to apply

This approach to liquid manure management is uncomplicated to administer. The product is easy to apply – it is simply mixing with water (5 grams/cow/week) and applied directly into the effluent channel or alley in the barn (or poured through slatted flooring), where it is scraped (or carried) to the in-barn holding tank/pit and ultimately transferred to the storage lagoon. It starts working right away, improving the atmosphere in the barn. For situations where slurry is already in the main storage lagoon, the product is simply mixed well with water and applying directly into the lagoon where it goes to work.

Decomposition and putrefaction - the great adversaries

Putrefaction (anaerobic) - untreated

Decomposition (aerobic) - treated

Leads to the formation of: hydrogen sulphide, hydrogen chloride,hydrocarbon, phosphorus hydride, ammonia (NH4) N losses

Result: toxins (poisons) which promote disease

The following substances are formed / made available: plant-available trace elements such as zinc, copper, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum and others

Nitric oxide (NO3); N bound to form fungal protein

Result: antibiotics, inhibitors that prevent disease

livestock exposed to risk of viruses destruction of viruses
anaerobic bacteria do not produce vitamins mould fungi produce vitamins and enzymes
putrefaction leads to pest infestation decomposition processes are essential for healthy plants.
acrid, pungent putrescent odours low-odour to odourless
formation of floating crust and sediment layers in slurry slurry remains liquid and homogeneous
formation of strong root toxins no substances to inhibit root growth
danger of scorching during application no scorching of plants during application
promotes growth of wood top grass = inferior fodder promotes growth of ground-covering bottom grass = nourishing fodder
realtively high quantities of fertilizer are required, mineral fertilizer also needs to be used small quantities of slurry per ha. due to high fertilizing capacity, no or reduced mineral fertilizer required
Pollutants in dissolved form = dange fo the groundwater nutrients in bound form = no risk to the groundwater

Source: Erhard Hennig, The Secrets of Fertile Soil [English edition of "Geheimnisse der fruchtbaren Böden”, Germany


At a cost of just two cents (2¢) a day per cow, it is also inexpensive. Plus with no capital equipments or operational modifications required, a savings on energy use and the generation of a higher quality end product, it was shown how the “Penergetic approach” is a cost effective solution able to fit into any farmer’s budget.

Sustainable approaches to managing solid manure were also discussed. Whereas, it is common practice to simply pile solid manure (e.g. soiled livestock bedding and spent poultry litter) and allow it to breakdown on its own, Pratt discussed how a second product, penergetic k can be used to accelerate the breakdown of solid manures. Once again by stimulating an aerobic process it helps to produce a rich humic compost more rapidly, without foul (anaerobic) odours, free of pathogens and instead populated with beneficial fungi which support soil fertility. This product can also be used directly on bedding in stalls or poultry litter to reduce problems of ammonia smell, help to contain potential pathogenic problems and start to decompose the stall bedding or litter and any excrement.

Livestock are inefficient at extracting nutrients from feedstuffs - typically 75-90% of major nutrients fed to livestock pass directly through the animal into the manure. In a closed cycle, where much of these nutrients are often raised right on the farm and with today’s prices for synthetic fertilizers, the extent to which these nutrients can be returned to the soil and made available to subsequent crops will depend to a large degree on the way the manure is stored and handled.

Also discussed were the advantages of manure composting and key considerations in developing an effective composting system. Pratt pointed out that well composted manure slowly releases its nutrients into the soil, enhancing the soil microbiological life and soil texture; whereas, the highly-soluble nutrients in raw (or in-adequately treated manure) are quickly leached away and can damage both the soil biology and crop.

While focusing somewhat on the agricultural community in the Fraser Valley, which has perhaps the highest concentration of intensive dairy and poultry operations in the country, this presentation provided thoughtful information that should prove useful to farmers with livestock or poultry, anywhere in western Canada, who are interested in an economical, agronomically-sound and environmentally appropriate means of transforming what is often considered to be a problematic waste into a valuable organic fertilizer.

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On-Farm Nutrient Management Planning - A Summary


Presented by: Geoff Hughes-Games, PAg, Provincial Soil Specialist, BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries

(Dateline December, 2000) A handbook (Nutrient Management Planning Handbook - Draft November 2000) is currently being developed which will guide farmers with confined livestock facilities through the process of nutrient management planning. Decisions regarding which farm fields should receive nutrient in the upcoming crop year will be made. This includes the amount of manure each field should receive based on the crop to be grown, the expected yield and quality of that crop, and the amount of available nutrients already present in the soil. Calculations of manure application rates for each field are based on meeting the crop's need for one of the three main nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium. The amount of supplementary fertilizer in addition to the manure application will be determined. And finally, a nutrient balance on the farm will be completed comparing the amount of manure produced by the animals on the operation, and the amount of manure all fields can use for the crops to be grown.

The handbook details 12 steps for Nutrient Management Planning as well as providing additional information on other aspects of nutrient management, laboratories and blank worksheets. These 12 steps consist of 11 worksheets and 9 accompanying data tables, plus step-by-step instructions for completing the worksheets.

The following is a selected summary of the steps in the Nutrient Management Planning Handbook. Some pertinent details have been left in for reference.

Step 1. Planning

Step 1. Planning
(begin at least one month ahead of planned manure applications)

Field and Crop Information
For each cropped field that will receive manure and / or fertilizer, this information is required:

  • the size of the field
  • the crop to be grown this cropping year - include new seeding, annual and perennial forage and silage corn.
  • the expected yield and quality of the harvested crop this growing season (total of all cuts of forage, or single crop of silage corn),
  • past manure applications to the field - annual heavy applications, annual light applications or less frequent use of manure, type of manure
  • past fertilization of field - heavy, medium or light

Information on yield and protein content of forage and silage corn crops from previous years will be useful in predicting this year's yield and protein content values.

Manure Information
If significant amounts of more than one type of manure (e.g. liquid and solid dairy manure, or dairy and hog manure) are to be applied, samples of each type of manure need to be taken and submitted to the lab for analysis. The sampling section that follows outlines how to do this. Information is also required on either the total volume of manure that will be applied (all types), or the number of animals whose manure will be applied to the fields.

Information Required in Advance of Soil Sampling
If soil samples have never been taken from the fields before, spend a few minutes thinking about each field that will be cropped in terms of its size, uniformity and previous fertilization and cropping. Divide the farm into fields with similar sizes and draw a simple map of each field well before samples must be taken. A decision is also required on what sort of sampling equipment will work for the soils found in the farm fields (e.g. sandy, gravelly, clay or organic). Locate the equipment if necessary.

Step 2. Soil, Crop and Manure Sampling

Step 2. Soil, Crop and Manure Sampling

This step involves collecting soil, crop and manure samples and sending the samples to a laboratory to be analyzed. The resulting lab reports will be needed in order to complete the worksheets.

A. Soil Sampling

The purpose of soil sampling is to collect a soil sample for lab analysis that represents the variability in the soil of the field being sampled. To do this many small samples will be collected and mixed together to make one composite sample for each field. Ensure that a representative sample is collected. There are qualified professional agrologists throughout the province who will do soil sampling; contact the closest local BCMAFF office or the BC Institute of Agrologists (1-604-855-9291) for a list in your area.

What Analyses are Required?

To complete the nutrient management worksheets, the following soil test information is required:

  • available phosphorus (P) [Bray P1 or Kelowna]
  • available potassium (K) [ammonium acetate or Kelowna]
  • nitrate-Nitrogen (NO3-N) and for spring soil tests in the Interior ammonia-nitrogen (NH4-N)

Other information may be included with the soil test report, such as soil concentrations of secondary and micro-nutrients, and metals, bulk density, pH and % organic matter. This is important information, and should be kept on record.

B. Crop Sampling

To get accurate analytical data, the crop samples collected must be typical of the whole crop. The procedures outlined below suggest appropriate sample collection methodology. Crop samples should be collected throughout the growing season, and the values can be used in the nutrient management worksheets to estimate the following year's forage protein and dry matter content.

What Analyses are Required ?

To complete the nutrient management worksheets, crop protein content and dry yield for each field are required for each field. This information can be estimated, however, much more accurate information can be obtained with sampling and lab analysis. Request a protein and dry matter analysis for each sample. Other information which is useful but not required information includes: forage nitrate and potassium concentration. These can be used to alert the livestock manager to potential problem forages.

C. Manure Sampling

The manure sample submitted to the lab must be representative of the whole manure pit or pile. For that reason, careful sampling is very important. Check with the lab for both the turnaround time for sample analysis, and the type of container in which they prefer to receive samples. Be prepared to submit samples 2 to 3 weeks before planned the planned manure application to ensure sufficient time for analysis.

What Analyses Are Required ?

To complete the nutrient management worksheets, the following manure test information is required:

  • total nitrogen (N or TKN)
  • ammonium or ammonia (NH4-N)
  • total phosphorus (P)
  • total potassium (K)
  • total solids or dry matter (TS or DM), or moisture (MC)

Most labs offer manure analysis packages which also include some secondary nutrients and micronutrients. This additional information is useful for the farm records but will not be required for this exercise. Request manure nutrient data in kg per tonne of wet manure; if the lab cannot provide the information in these units, conversion tables are provided in the handbook.

Step 3. Calculate the Annual Crop Nutrient Application Requirement

Step 3. Calculate the Annual Crop Nutrient Application Requirement

In this step the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that each crops will need during this cropping season will be calculated. This is based on crop uptake and nutrients already present in the soil. A soil report from each field will be used to decide how to manage that field. It will also aid in identifying any fields which have an excess of either phosphorus and potassium. The nitrogen fertility level of each field will be estimated based on previous manure and fertilizer use.


Figure 1 is an example map and Figure 2 is an example of planning information a dairy farmer may produce.

Example Dairy Farm Based Information

A Fraser Valley dairy farmer wishes to develop a nutrient management plan utilizing the farm's supply of dairy manure and cropland. The farm has 70 milking cows and about another 70 dry cows, heifers and calves.

field history    
Field Field Size


Crop History Manure and Fertilizer History
#1 6.25 5 year old grass stand, ploughed in recommended rates
#2 5 2 year old grass stand recommended rates
#3 4.5 grass planted last fall after 2 years in corn recommended rates
#4 12 4 year old grass stand recommended rates

crop information
Expected 'As Produced' Annual Crop Yield
Field Crop Silage (tonnes/ha) Hay (tonnes/ha)
#1 corn 63 --
#2 grass --- 19.5
#3 grass 25.75 --
#4 grass --- 16.25

The manure is incorporated into the soil within 24 hours on the corn field, and not incorporated at all on the grass fields. The farm manure spreader holds 9.4 m3. However, as field #2, P and K levels in the soil are getting to be elevated, manure is spread using a custom applicator with a sleighfoot attachment for better utilization of the N and hence reducing the P and K application.

Crop, Soil and Manure Test information:

Crop Test


Protein (dry matter basis)


Dry Matter


# 1 / Cron silage
#2 / Grass hay
#3 / Grass silage
#4 / Grass silage

Soil Test
Nitrogren (Nitrate-N)


Phosphorus (P)


Potassium (K)


Field #1
Field #2
Field #3
Field #4


Manure Test
Total Nitrogen
Phosphorus (P)
Potassium (K)
Liquid Dairy

Question: How should this farmer manage the manure application to minimize chemical fertilizer purchased, keep the levels of nutrients from getting too high in the soil, and maintain crop yeild and quality?

Step 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8

Step 4. Calculate the Crop Available Nutrients in the Manure Source

This step will looks at the lab analysis of the farm's manure. From that information calculations will be made as to the amount of crop-available nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is contained in the manure.

Step 5. Calculate the Manure Application Rate Based On Meeting Crop Annual Need for Nitrogen, Phosphorus or Potassium

In this step the amount of manure required to meet the crops annual need for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is determined.

Step 6. Selecting the Annual Manure Application Rate and Balancing Nutrients from Manure and Fertilizer

In step 5, three different manure application rates for each field were generated. Each application rate designed to meet the crop's requirement for either nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium. In general choose the lowest application rate of manure, and apply supplementary fertilizer to make up crop requirements. If higher rates are chosen, either of the one or two nutrients will be over applied or, over time the soil level of these nutrients will increase. If soil levels are already high, the risk of causing the herd health and environmental problems discussed previously will increase. If soil levels of phosphorus and potassium are low, there is little risk in the short term from increasing the soil level of these nutrients, but this practice is not acceptable for the long term. For each field, one of the three application rates of manure or a modified rate, depending on the farm's management strategy will be chosen.

In Step 6, the total amount of manure that will be required to meet the needs of all fields based on the selected application rate will be determined. From the calculated manure application rates selected in previous steps and the manure nutrient content will be used to determine how much supplementary fertilizer nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium will be required to meet crop needs.

Step 7. Calculate the Total Amount of Manure Produced on Farm and Assess Farm Manure Nutrient Balance

This worksheet will calculate the amount of manure is produced per year by the operation (in tonnes) based on livestock numbers and determine if there is any excess or deficiency of manure for the land base.

Step 8. Convert Manure Application Rate Based on Weight to Solid or Liquid Manure Volume Application Rates and Spreader Loads per Area

This worksheet converts the metric solid manure values which have been used to this point in the worksheets into liquid metric equivalents and Imperial units in order to prepare for manure application. Information from previous steps, the volumes of the various manure spreaders that will be used to apply manure (liquid and solid) and information on manure density will be required.

Step 9. Selecting Time and Amount of Each Application

Step 9. Selecting Time and Amount of Each Application

In Step 8 the annual amount of manure to apply on each field was determined. In this step the amount to be applied each application during the growing season is determined and the best time or times to apply are discussed.

Application Timing

The timing of manure application should be prior to the crop needing the nutrients and when crop growth will not restrict applications. The South Coast and Interior Regions have different monthly considerations. In addition to timing of application related to crop or seasonal climate conditions, other factors do play a role in nutrient use. Such as time of day and weather conditions to reduce drift that may cause odour problems (i.e. cool and early morning, little wind, etc.). There are times when manure application is not acceptable due to the risk of impacting the environment or little potential for nutrient utilization by the crop. Figures 3 and 4 show the times of year when fertilizer/manure applications should be considered.

The South Coastal Area:

February and March: If the land is not subject to flooding and/or runoff manure fertilizer can be applied on grassland or an established over-wintering cover crop. Use T-Sum 200 or T Sum 300 to determine time of first fertilizer application

April to August: Avoid spreading on wet soils which could compact or cause crop damage.

September and October: Restricted manure fertilizer application to grasslands that are well drained and not subject to flooding and/or runoff. Winter cover crops must be well established before any manure application is contemplated.

November to January: Application of fertilizer (particularly manures) is not recommended.

The Interior Area:

February and March: Manure fertilizer application should only be considered within fields with no history of runoff and/or flooding, and on soils that are not snow covered or frozen.

April to September: Avoid spreading on wet soils which could compact or cause crop damage.

October: Manure application to thawed ground only.

November to January: Application of fertilizer (particularly manures) is not recommended. If spreading is to occur then spread only within fields with no history of runoff and/or flooding, and with soils that are not snow covered or frozen.

Individual Application Amount

Crops follow a relatively predicable growth curve as illustrated for corn in Figure 3 and grass in Figure 4. Crops should be fertilized with an amount of nutrient which is proportional to the amount of annual growth expected prior to the next harvest. Figures 3 and 4 also show the percent of annual manure application that can occur at various manure spreading opportunities.

Each manure application:

  • should not exceed 50 m3/ha for slurry or 50 tonnes/ha of solid manure at one time
  • leave at least three weeks between applications this reduces sealing of the soil surface and allows for the soil to recover
  • irrigation of liquid manure should not exceed the soil infiltration capacity

Step 10. Choosing An Application Method and Calibrating Equipment

Step 10. Choosing An Application Method and Calibrating Equipment

Manure can be spread as a solid or liquid with various equipment as shown below. Methods that have accurate placement on the soil surface or within the crop canopy require less buffer distance to sensitive areas.

Liquid Manure Application Methods (Order of Preference)
Method Advantages Disadvantages


Aerator with Dribble Bar

(attached to vacuum tanker)

- low ammonia (NH3) loss

- maximizes fertilizer value of manure

- wider spreading window

- minimizes (nitrous oxide) N20 release

- accurate placement

- unitofrm application

- higher cost

- slow application rate

- crop damage

Low Trajectory Boom

(attached to hose real)

- low soil compaction

- low crop damage

- low N20 release

- higher risk of run-off

- shorter application window


(attached to vacuum tanker)

- maximizes fertilizer value of manure

- accurate placement

- uniform application

- high N20 release

- only suitable for some soil and crop conditions

- cost

- slow application rate

- short application window

Splash Plate

(on vacuum tanker)

- low cost

- low N20 release

- soil and crop compaction

- short application window

- high ammonia loss

- non-uniform application

Irrigation Gun

(attached to hose real)

- low cost

- rapid application rate

- low N20 release

- high risk of run-off

- short application window

- high ammonia loss

- high risk of pathogen, aerosol and odour drift

- non uniform application

- in accurate placement


- low trajectory booms on a taner will result in higher compaction and slower application rates

- inejector on a hose reel will have neutral compaction and a higher application rate.

Solid Manure Application Methods (Order of Preference)
Method Advantages Disadvantages
Spinning Disks - high application rate

- accurate placement

- need dry manure

- high dust production

Flail Broadcast - can spread variable moisutre content - poor placement

- low uniformity

Dump and Grade - cheap - poor uniformity

- difficult to control rate

Rapid incorporation, less than 2 hours, of both solid and liquid manure will reduce odour and nitrogen losses.

Damage to crops will be reduced by methods that use high floatation tires, place manure under the canopy, deliver dilute slurry or have low soil disturbance.

Methods that reduce the risk from preferential flow of manure or nutrients to drains include using solid manure or have significant soil disturbance prior to or at the same time that liquid manure is applied.

Calibrating Application Equipment

Calibration refers to a determination of the amount of solid or liquid applied per unit of area or unit of time for the piece of manure application equipment used by the farm. It also refers to the uniformity of application. It has been reported that applying manure uniformly has resulted in up to 15 % increase in forage crop yields compared to the same amount of manure that was not spread uniformly.

Ideal uniformity over the width of an application (splash plate, gun or solid spreader) is illustrated in Figure 5.

Note that effective width is less than the spreader width. However, the correct overlapping of runs can give a uniform application over the field.

As manure nutrients become available over time. Varying the application pattern will tend to average out any minor uniformity problems. This may require entering the field differently or changing the direction of travel each time manure is spread.

Step 11. Selecting Buffer Sizes and Types to Protect Sensitive Areas

A) Sensitive Areas

The following cautions or risks should be considered before any application:

Surface Runoff: The speed at which liquid soaks into the soil is important in working out the risk of run-off. Water ponding on the soil surface shows that the liquid is being applied faster than it can soak into the soil. There is a greater risk of run-off on sloping land. Application should be stopped or the rate reduced depending on the circumstances. On some sites, even a small amount of rain will cause run-off.

Land Drains: Fields with effective land drainage systems cause a particular risk. The danger is that liquid applied to the surface will find its way into the drains and watercourse. This risk applies to any drained field whatever its slope or how near it is to a watercourse. Most lowland clays or silt loams have had drainage systems installed at some time and pipes may still work even if a modern system has not been put in.

Groundwater Contamination: Applying waste to land can pollute water underground. The risk applies in any field where permeable soils lie directly on top of rock formations or in deep unconsolidated sands and gravels that hold water, especially where the watertable is shallow.

Weather Conditions: Applying manure in adverse weather conditions will increase the risk of escapes which may cause pollution. Avoid windy or rainy days, and frozen or snow covered land.

Crop or Crop Residue Conditions: The presence of an actively growing crop, cover crop or significant crop residue will reduce the risk of run-off of manure. Actively growing crops will reduce the risk of nutrient loss from the soil.

Wildlife Habitat: Some sensitive wildlife habitat can be adversely affected by the application of nutrients or manure. These areas should be identified and avoided. Plant species and soil microbes do respond to the application of nutrients however this response may cause undesirable shifts in species composition or alter usefulness of the area for other species including domestic livestock.

Human Habitat and Transportation: In addition to protecting water supplies it may be necessary to alter or avoid application of nutrients (i.e. manure) in areas adjacent to homes and transportation routes. This may be due to climatic or equipment conditions or nuisance issues. Changing timing, spread type or nutrient source can achieve the desired protection of these areas. Avoid windy conditions and high trajectory applicators.

B) Determining Buffers

Buffers are used to protect watercourses, sensitive habitat and wellheads from contaminated surface water runoff, and adjoining properties from undesirable effects. Buffers may vary in width and composition depending on the sensitivity of the area to be protected. When the risk of runoff is high due to soil, season of climatic conditions (i.e. higher rainfall, reduced growth) buffer width or filtering ability will need to be greater.

Figure 7, is an example of buffers based on the time of year that manure is spread and risk of impacting a sensitive area.

Early spring manure application will need a wider buffer from a watercourse compared to summer manure application. This is due to expected higher rainfall and stormwater runoff events in the spring compared to the summer.

Manure application equipment which places manure accurately and immediately on the soil surface will need a narrower buffer than equipment that throws manure into the air (Figure 7). Solid manure is less likely to move across a field that liquid manure during application.

To determine if the buffer size is appropriate, monitoring is required to ensure that the buffer is stopping all contamination from reaching the area to be protected.

Buffers may be a continuation of the forage field, a separately managed grass area, a planted belt of trees and shrubs, the riparian area along a watercourse or a combination of the above.

Check the following before applying nutrients:

  • the presence of a sensitive area
  • buffer size/quality matches runoff risk -> height/width/species mix/stage of growth
  • look for seasonal changes -> i.e. taller, wider or more dense in spring and fall

Additional information is available in the draft Riparian Self Audit Handbook (being prepared for Beef, Dairy and Horticultural Producers).

Figure 7. Buffer based on Season and Equipment Type

Step 12. Monitoring Nutrient Management Effectiveness and Recording Nutrient Management Activities

This section contains information on monitoring the effectiveness of nutrient management planning and recording planning information and nutrient management activities.

A) Monitoring

Fall or 'Report Card' Soil Nitrate-Nitrogen Testing

Fall soil sampling for nitrate level can help to evaluate the effectiveness of the past season's nitrogen management. Spring soil samples are taken to help predict how much fertilizer is needed for the upcoming season, while fall sampling will give an indication of the accuracy of your predicted nitrogen requirement. If the soil level of nitrate is low in fall after crop growth has stopped, the amount of nitrogen applied in manure and fertilizer was appropriate for the crop grown (in that the crop was able to use almost all of the applied nitrogen). If the soil level of nitrate is high after crop growth has stopped, the crop was not able to use all of the nitrogen present in the soil, and manure and/or fertilizer application rates should be reduced for a similar crop next year. If you live in coastal B.C., residual soil nitrate-nitrogen will be lost from the soil through leaching by next spring, and will eventually find its way to groundwater. If you live in the Interior of B.C., residual nitrogen will be available for crop growth next spring, and should be considered when determining the nitrogen requirement for next year's crops.

Long-term Soil Quality Monitoring

Once every three to five years it is useful to do a complete nutrient and metals scan on your soil samples as a way for you to monitor the long-term soil quality of your fields. The nutrient management planning worksheets look at only nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium levels in soil, and at none of the secondary nutrients, micro nutrients, metals and other soil parameters that can change in your soil as the result of on-going manure and fertilizer applications, and cropping practices. Request an analysis of the secondary nutrients calcium, magnesium, sodium and sulfur as well as micronutrients and metals, particularly copper and zinc. Most agricultural labs have a standard nutrient and micronutrient/metals package that will give you the required background information to monitor soil quality. Reports should be kept on file, and used to compare with on-going sampling results to pick out any significant changes in soil concentrations of metals or nutrients.

B) Record Keeping

For the most effective nutrient management program, it is essential to keep track of soil, crop and manure testing results along with all information about the rates, type and timing of fertilizer, manure and soil conditioner applications. Other observations on crop growth, yield, quality and weather during the growing season are also useful.

Use a filing cabinet with dividers or a binder with tabs to store information in the following format for easy use:

1. Yearly Reports Include: - manure reports and manure volume; - Nutrient Management Plans

2. Field Reports Include (by year for 5 years): - soil report; - yield results; - crop reports; - actual manure and fertilizer application amounts and times

3. Archive: - by field any information that is 5 or more years old, keep every 5th year (i.e. 1980,'85,'90,'95, & 2000); - keep Nutrient Management Plans with manure information

Additional Information

This section contains information on:
- environmental concerns with high phosphorus soils
- livestock health concerns with high potassium forages

A) Environmental Concerns with High Phosphorus Soils

Soils that have an elevated phosphorus concentration can pose a risk to surface water sources. Movement of soil containing high levels of phosphorus into surface water that drains into fresh water lakes can cause eutrophication of fresh water. Phosphorus entering lakes on eroded soil or manure particles will cause an algal bloom which depletes the lake's oxygen and can kill fish. When high phosphorus soil is eroded from farmland, a large amount of phosphorus can enter the water course in the eroded soil. Eroded sediment containing phosphorus settles on the lake bottom and is released gradually over many years, creating a long-term water quality problem in the lake.

High phosphorus soils are a concern in the following circumstances:

1. When streams and drainage systems empty into lakes, such as in the southern Interior of B.C.

2. When the fields in question are located next to surface water sources and are susceptible to erosion, or when fields have artificial drainage systems that empty ultimately into a lake system.

In areas of the province where fresh water and artificial drainage systems drain into major rivers that enter salt water, high phosphorus soils are not considered a concern at this time. In phosphorus-sensitive areas of the province, fields that are located well away from fresh water and where there is no risk of surface runoff and erosion of soil, high phosphorus soil is also not considered a major problem.

Management Suggestions to Minimize the Risk of Soil Erosion

Fields that are situated next to a fresh water source that discharges into a lake system and that due to topography or soil type are susceptible to erosion, should be managed carefully. Never apply manure or fertilizer when there is risk of surface runoff of rain or snow-melt water into the stream. Establish well-vegetated buffer strips of at least 30 m between the stream and field to catch any eroded material. Do not apply manure or fertilizer in the buffer strips. Avoid over applying phosphorus in manure and fertilizer to keep soil concentration in the optimum range - runoff of low phosphorus soil will do much less damage to a freshwater aquatic system.

Phosphorus Loss Through Artificial Drainage Systems

Phosphorus can also move downward through the soil and into drainage systems, and enter surface water through this route. The main route of phosphorus movement downward through the soil is by preferential flow which is the rapid movement of soil water (and liquid manure) through cracks, fissures and biological macropores (worm borings) in the soil directly to drain tiles or groundwater. The amount of phosphorus that is lost from the soil through downward flow is directly related to the concentration of phosphorus in the soil because small soil particles move down and into drain tiles. As well, at extremely high soil phosphorus concentrations when the soil's capacity for retaining phosphorus is exceeded, phosphorus can leach in much the same manner as nitrate.

Management Suggestions to Minimize Phosphorus Loss from Drainage Systems

Downward movement of phosphorus through macropores and cracks, and in the soil solution is a concern in tile-drained fields where drainage enters a fresh-water lake system. Tile-drained fields in sensitive areas should be tilled before manure or fertilizer application in the spring to break up all cracks and macropores. On fields in perennial forage, pre-application tillage is not possible; to limit phosphorus loss in drain tiles in perennially cropped fields, apply liquid manure in several small applications over the season rather than one large application in early spring.

B) Livestock Health Concerns with High Potassium Forages

High potassium forages are becoming increasingly of concern in intensively farmed areas of the province. When the soil concentration of potassium has become elevated due to long-term over application of potassium in manure and fertilizer, forage will take up this potassium in direct proportion to its concentration in the soil; far beyond the amount required for normal growth of forage, in a process called 'luxury consumption'. Forages with potassium levels much higher than normal will result.

When this high potassium forage makes up greater than 3.5% of a dairy cow's diet (such as with dry cows), the potassium interferes with the uptake of calcium and magnesium in the cow's digestive tract. The cow is not able to keep body levels of these nutrients at the desired level as there is so much competing potassium. This imbalance of calcium and magnesium can lead to many health problems in dairy cows. A high potassium diet will also result in increased water consumption by affected cows, and increased urine output which puts stress on the kidneys.

High potassium soils create a vicious, difficult to break cycle on a farm. Virtually all of the potassium consumed by the cow in her ration is excreted in the urine and is re-captured in the manure. The manure is reapplied to the field, where forages take it up in 'luxury' levels again. Very little potassium is lost during the storage and application of manure, and most soils have the capacity to hold large amounts of potassium. Once the soil level of potassium is elevated, the excess potassium is difficult to get rid of unless forage is sold off farm and low potassium forage is purchased and brought on farm. To prevent soil buildup of potassium, monitor soil potassium levels annually. If the soil potassium level exceeds the optimum level of 300 ppm, no fertilizer potassium should be applied to any crops. Manure application on high potassium fields should be limited to the amount removed by crops.

'Advanced Forage Management' (Bittman et al, 1999) makes the following management suggestions for high potassium forages:

1. Reduce potassium fertilizer application and eliminate off-farm manure sources.

2. Set aside a specific field for feeding dry cows. Do not manure this field, and use no potassium fertilizer. Over time, the soil potassium level will decline to a safe level.

3. Dilute high potassium forages with low potassium feeds. Purchase forages from non-livestock operations where soil potassium levels should be lower

British Columbia Agricultural Testing Laboratories

The cost for a basic soil fertility package ranges from $24.00 to $45.00 per sample, and typically includes nitrate-nitrogen, available phosphorus, available potassium, sulphate, and pH, and may include other tests. Most basic fertility packages also include fertilizer recommendations. Some do not include nitrate-nitrogen or ammonia-nitrogen - be sure to request this analysis, especially if samples were collected in the interior of B.C. To complete the nutrient management worksheets, you need the following information about your soil: available phosphorus, available potassium, nitrate-nitrogen and ammonia-nitrogen. Check that the lab will provide you with these analyses before you submit samples.

The cost of a basic manure analysis ranges from $25.00 to $50.00 per sample, and the analysis includes total nitrogen, ammonium-nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, dry matter and occasionally electric conductivity. Some labs do not provide an analysis of ammonium-nitrogen, which is required to complete the nutrient management worksheets. Check that the lab will provide you with an analysis of total nitrogen, ammonium-nitrogen, total phosphorus, total potassium and dry matter (or moisture content) before you submit samples. Nitrate-nitrogen is also useful.

The following is a list of laboratories that do agricultural testing. After each firms name, in brackets is the type of testing they do [soil (S), crop (C) or manure (M)].

  • Pacific Soil Analysis (S, M), 5 - 11720 Voyageur Way, Richmond, B.C., V6X 3G9, Phone: (604) 273-8226, Fax: (250) 273-8082
  • M & B Research & Development Ltd. (S, C, M), 10115C McDonald Park Road, Sidney, B.C., V8L 5X5, Phone: (250) 656-1334, Fax: (250) 656-0443, Web Page:
  • Soilcon Laboratories Ltd. (S), 275 - 11780 River Road, Richmond, B.C., V6X 1X7, Phone: (604) 278-5535, Fax: (604) 278-0517, Web Page:
  • Norwest Soil Research Inc. (S, C, M), Suite 104 19575 55A Avenue, Surrey, B.C., V3S 8P8, Phone: (604) 514-3322, Toll free: 1-800-889-1433, Fax: (604) 514-3323, Web Page:
  • Vancouver Island Soil Testing (S), 6021 Cassino Road, Duncan, B.C., V9L 4G5, Phone: (250) 746-8633, Fax: (250) 746-8633, Email: Note: lab and price information given in this section was current as of November, 2000

Publications or Assistance

Copies of:

Nutrient Management Planning Handbook, for Producers Applying Manure from Confined Livestock Facilities in BC (draft - November 2000)


Blank Worksheets for use with the Nutrient Management Planning Handbook (draft - November 2000)

are available from Resource Management Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.

For further information:

Contact: Geoff Hughes-Games
Provincial Soil Specialist
Phone: 604 556-3102


Rick Van Kleeck
Waste Management Engineer
Phone: 604 556-3108

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
1767 Angus Campbell Road
Abbotsford BC V3G 2M3
Toll free phone: 1-888-221-7141

Responsible Manure Management Necessary (2001)

Return to Manure

MELP will once again be undertaking inspections...

As part of its stated strategy to protect drinking water, the Ministry of Environment Lands and Park's (MELP) Surrey Regional Office has advised producer organizations that Agency staff will again be undertaking inspections to ensure compliance with the Agricultural Waste Control Regulation. MELP has stated that inspections are planned commencing in October, "to determine compliance with regulation requirements for covering manure piles and manure application on bare ground."

While the MELP inspections will be targeted in the Fraser Valley, it is important that producers in all regions of the province use caution and appropriate practices when making manure applications. MELP officials have again emphasized that it is each producer's own responsibility to prevent pollution from occurring and to be in compliance with the Code of Agricultural Practice for Waste Management.

It should be emphasized that soils will generally have sufficient quantities of nitrogen to establish a cover crop following a corn silage harvest. However, where the need for nitrogen has been determined to aid in cover crop establishment and growth, a moderate application could be made as soon as possible following harvest if conditions are appropriate. Manure should never be applied to bare land not being seeded with a cover crop.

As established grass crops will generally undergo considerable growth in September and October, appropriate manure applications can be made to these fields. When the days get shorter and colder and precipitation increases, grass growth slows significantly and added precaution should be taken.

The overall intent is to match the crop's nutrient requirements with the available nutrients of manure - applying manure in excess of these needs, or when conditions are not appropriate, can lead to environmental contamination and must be avoided. When in doubt, producers should always consider contacting the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries office to discuss methods available to assist in deciding when crop conditions are optimum for manure application.

NEW Sustainable Manure Management Program (SMMP)

Sustainable Manure Management Program (SMMP) The BC Milk Producers Association, in cooperation with BC's poultry producers and the BC Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries, is administering thenew Sustainable Manure Management Program (SMMP). Thefollowing is information on the program. OBJECTIVES The Sustainable Manure Management Program (SMMP) will provide incentives for increasing the manure storage capacity of existing livestock and poultry facilities on BC farms and ranches.

The increased storage must be shown to improve producers' nutrient management practices and better utilize manure as a fertilizer, thereby improving the overall viability of BC farms and ranches. ELIGIBILITY To be eligible for assistance, projects must be consistent with the objectives of the SMMP, be designed by a Professional Engineer, and must expand the manure storage capacity to a minimum of 5 months. All existing livestock and poultry producers in BC are eligible to apply to SMMP.

Users of manure, such as horticulture or grain producers, are also eligible where there is a demonstrated (i.e. signed contract) long term commitment to receive and utilize manure from existing poultry or livestock farms. Projects must comply with all federal and provincial environmental regulations and guidelines and producer codes of practice. Project costs incurred prior to the approval date of funding will not be eligible for reimbursement. A total expenditure of $1 million dollars has been approved for the SMMP, and individual projects will be approved in order of receipt of application.

Participation in another government funded assistance program does not exclude a project's eligibility, provided the SMMP funding is for a separate and distinct activity not funded by current or previous programs. ELIGIBLE ACTIVITIES Eligible activities include, but are not limited to:

• Investigation of manure production rates and existing manure storage capacity;
• Covering existing uncovered manure storage facilities;
• Constructing environmentally responsible manure storage facilities, such as;
• Earthen lagoons
• Concrete tanks
• Metal silos
• Engineering design of facilities;

Activities not eligible include, but are not restricted to the purchase of machinery or equipment for manure handling. FINANCIAL Approved projects will receive reimbursement of up to 25 percent of eligible activity expenditures, to a maximum of $20,000. Projects that exceed $80,000 will only be eligible for the above maximum reimbursement. APPLICATION PROCESS If you are a livestock or poultry producer in British Columbia, and feel you may be eligible for this program, please contact the BC Milk Producers Association by e-mail to receive an application form. Please specify if you would like the application formatted in MS Word or WordPerfect, or if you would like to receive a faxed copy.

Producers should treat November through January as a no-spread period, and should not plan on making any manure applications during that time. In some years, limited manure applications in the earlier part of November or the latter part of January could be made, but only under the conditions described in the attached table.

Application of Manure to Grassland in the Fraser Valley
During Early November and Late January

Item Explanation How to Estimate
Suitable Grass Stand The grass stand must be in a suitable condition to be able to take advantage of the planned manure application.
  • grass is alive, green, not dormant and the stand is healthy and uniform.
  • mean daily air temperature generally above 5?c for two weeks
Manure Application Rate The amount of manure applied must match the needs of the crop. On average, only about 5% of the annual growth of the crop occurs during the winter period, so manure application should not exceed a total of 20-30 kg/ha of nitrogen (about one load or 2,000 gallons per acre) during this period. an estimate of the nitrogen content of liquid manure can be established, preferably by using one of the following methods* :

- hydrometer
- nitrogen quick test
- laboratory analysis

book values can also be used, particularly for estimating the nitrogen content of solid manure.

Soil Condition The soil must be sufficiently well drained and relatively dry.Water table should be well below surface.Soil should not be frozen. in its natural condition the soil is moderately well to rapidly drained, OR there is a farm drainage system with outlet conditions that allow the lines to function properly.Equipment can operate on the field without damaging the crop or soil.

more than 2 days since the last significant rain and no significant rain forecast in the short term.

Buffers to Protect Water Quality application should not occur closer than 10 metres on level ground (0-2% slope) and larger buffers should be provided where land slopes towards a water course (2-5%).spreading should not occur where slope exceeds 5% buffer is effective because there is no evidence of run-off within 5 metres of the water course
*Producers should contact B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Food staff to obtain assistance in estimating nitrogen content of manure.

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Sleighfoot Manure Application - Frequently asked questions

Won't the SMA slow me down to much?

Without doubt, the SMA is a slower method of spreading manure than with a splash-plate. The question is "How much?" If you run the manure through a chopper on the intake, loading time is increased. How much depends on the type and capacity of the chopper and on the nature of the manure. In the best case, loading time is probably only increased by 10-20%. In the worst case, it could be doubled.

Travel time to and from the field is not really affected. spreading time in the field is increased but only slightly. The DPCG found that overall spreading time was increased by 50-100% over conventional splash plate applicators.

It is quite possible that a locally built model could address some of the "slow-down" problems without much extra cost. Note that in the Harris report, the SMA can be more economically viable even at half the speed of a splash plate applicator, when offered as a custom service.

What about blockages?

Getting slurry to flow foolproof through 2-inch hoses is indeed one of the challenges with the SMA. Even with a chopper on the inlet and a chopper/distributor on the outlet, the DPCG ran into plugging problems on a few farms. Usually these were farms where everything went into the pit.

If you are considering the SMA for your farm, you also need to consider how you handle your manure. Solid wastes (bedding from calf pens and maternity pens, spoilage from silos) must be kept out. The SMA works best on farms, which have put in stall mattresses and have reduced bedding inputs.

Won't the SMA kill earthworms?

There is no evidence from Canadian experience to support this allegation. Because the individual "feet" glide on the surface, there is not cutting action in the soil that can physically kill earthworms. Sod injection, particularly deep injection, could have a negative impact on earthworms.

There is plenty of evidence showing that manure application has an overall positive impact on soil biological properties, including earthworm populations. In a long-term manure application trial at Agassiz in which the SMA was used as the manure application technique, visual observations were that earthworm and beetle populations were higher in manured treatments.

Won't the SMA cause more leaching?

No, especially if manure is applied at agronomic rates. When manure is applied at the right rate with the SMA, purchased fertilizer inputs can be eliminated. As long as you have a healthy forage stand, the crop will take up the vast majority of mineral nitrogen in the soil.

Sleighfoot Manure Applicator Solves Stinky Problem

By Judy Walters

A new device tested by members of the Dairy Producers' Conservation Group (DPCG) promises to easy southwestern BC farmers' manure disposal problems.

The DPCG brought the sleighfoot manure applicator (SMA) in from Holland for its members to test in 1992. Field trials conducted by Dr. Shabtai Bittman of Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada indicate that using the SMA is not only environmentally responsible, but also economically sensible.

Unlike conventional manure applicators which splatter manure all over the field, the SMA deposits manure in neat bands beneath the leaf canopy of a standing crop of grass, explains DPCG co-ordinator Orlando Schmidt.

Dutch fabricator Buts Meulepas loaned the DPCG this commercially sized sleighfoot manure applicator for the 1996 growing season. The machine was demonstrated on 500 acres of forage grass and has since been purchased by a forage producer on VancouverIsland.

The SMA deposits the manure precisely where it should be, concurs Abbotsford dairy farmer Bernie Klinger. "Manure doesn't do much good on top of the crop. It needs to be on the dirt."

The SMA deposits manure right on the ground, at the base of the plant, says Schmidt.

The SMA features feet, which ride on the surface. The feet comb through the grass and part it. After the manure has been deposited, the grass resumes its upright posture.

Because no manure lands on top of the crop, it doesn't get flattened, smothered, or burned, says Klinger, who has witnessed the damage conventional application techniques can do.

In addition to accurate placement, the SMA solves the problem of evaporation, says Curtis Strong, assistant manager of Woodwynn Farm, a forage production operation in Saanich.

When farmers use traditional manure application technologies, such as a splash plate, they create an aerosol of fine particles, which remain suspended in the air, he explains. That's what causes the smell neighbors living in the nearby residential subdivisions complain about.

"The SMA deposits the manure gently under the leaf canopy. Then the crop folds over the manure. There's no smell," says Klinger, who applied manure at a rate of 3,000 gallons per acre on a hot day last August right next to a group having a picnic. They never knew the difference.

Because the SMA deposits manure on the ground right next to the target plant's roots, nutrient uptake is enhanced.

Ammonium nitrogen (NH4-N), the type of nitrogen contained in manure which is readily available to plants, evaporates very easily, explains Strong. The SMA reduces the amount of NH4-N that evaporates. That means the crop gets it.

The SMA also gives farmers a lot of flexibility, says Klinger. It means "you don't have to wait until just before a rain or until after you've harvested your crops."

New provincial Manure Management Guidelines require producers farming at the coast, where heavy winter rains cause runoff which contaminates surface and ground water, to apply all their manure before October 31. With the SMA, farmers can apply their manure "from April to September," reports Klinger.

More important than time management, you can apply the manure right when your crops need it most, says Klinger.

"Manure is not a waste product. It's a resource," concurs Strong. "It should be managed carefully."

Farmers can substantially reduce the amount of money they have to spend on commercial fertilizers if they apply manure to their crops when they need it, says Schmidt, who is analyzing the costs and benefits of using a SMA, thanks to a grant from the Canada-BC Farm Business Management Program.

The CBCFBMP is a federal-provincial program designed to help farmers manage change, adopt modern farm business management principles and practices, improve their international competitiveness and self-reliance, address environmental issues and ensure the long term sustainability of the industry.

Using a partial budget, Schmidt and agricultural economists Andrea Harris compared the fixed and variable costs of each manure application system and the effect each had on the farm's annual net income.

When only variable costs are considered, the SMA beats conventional splashplate technology, due primarily to a reduction in chemical fertilizer costs explains Harris. When fixed costs associated with capital investment are included, however, the splashplate is more economical than the SMA. For example, waste management would cost a 100-acre farm $4,5000 more per year.

Application System Cost
Slurry Irrigation System $80,000
Imported Sleighfoot Manure Applicator $53,174
Locally Manufactured Sleighfoot $47,100
Vacuum Tank With Splashplate $25,500


On the face of it, the SMA doesn't look like an economically feasible alternative, primarily because of high capital costs. If, however, farmers forego ownership in favour of leasing, jointly owning or hiring custom operators, the economics of the SMA improve significantly. When custom rates are compared sleighfoot application is cheaper than splashplate application.

Over and above financial considerations, the SMA offers producers some important non-monetary benefits. They include: flexibility in terms of application, a tool to manage risk, a reduction in odors, and a chance to reduce the environmental impact of normal farm practices.

Acres Add'l


Costs Per Acre








Total Add'l


50 $149 $7,456 $4,700 $2,756
100 $139 $13,900 $9,399 $4,501
150 $137 $20,557 $14,099 $6,459
200 $134 $26,800 $18,798 $8,002


Looking ahead, predicts Strong, the pressure on farmers to use "environmentally friendly" practices is going to intensify. "The writing is on the wall." The SMA offers farmers an environmentally and economically sustainable alternative.

Next Page: « Harris Report Concludes Custom Sleighfoot Manure Application Can Be Economically Viable. »

Sleighfoot addresses air quality issues

In the Eastern Fraser Valley, hot summer days have become synonymous with hazy skies and bad air. To get a good grasp of this, all you have to do is hike up one of the local mountains during an August heatwave. From the peak of Mt. Cheam, 15 km east of Chilliwack, you will be lucky if you can see the local municipality. Turning around, the view to Jones Lake and beyond is unimpeded and quite spectacular. The contrast is amazing.

Air pollution has become a significant problem in the Fraser Valley. Although the vast majority of air pollution is attributed to the automobile, scientists now believe that ammonia being emitted through agricultural practices is a major player as well.

The splashplate is still used by many farmers in BC today. It is a very time effective method but does not produce as consistent results for forage production as the SMA.

An Environment Canada report suggests that ammonia - a by-product of manure application - may play a key role in air pollution by forming ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulphate. It is estimated that 86% of airborn ammonia in the Fraser Valley is from agriculture. Ammonia-based particles tend to generate a white haze as opposed to the brown haze, which results from industrial emissions.

Essentially, pollutants from industry and the automobile (mainly from Vancouver) migrate down the Valley and mix with gases being emitted from agriculture to form the particulate matter. Because the valley is funnel-shaped, the white haze gets trapped against the mountains in the Eastern Fraser Valley.

The occurrence of white haze is quite common now and can last for weeks if a high-pressure weather system is in place.

Obviously the problem would be reduced if automobile and industrial emissions were cut back. The problem would also be less if agricultural emissions were reduced. A joint strategy to achieve both of these objectives is necessary.

With environmental policies that favor the protection of water quality, there has been a shift in manure spreading patterns away from the winter months and towards the spring and summer months. The rationale is that if manure is applied and utilized during the growing season, there will be fewer pollutants entering watercourses and groundwater.

Unfortunately, without appropriate technology, summertime manure application can worsen air quality. With warmer temperatures, ammonia emissions from manure application can worsen air quality. With warmer temperatures, ammonia emissions from manure application increase. Your nosebuds can testify to this - the smell of manure is always worse during a summer barbecue than during a winter skate.

This is where the sleighfoot manure applicator comes into the picture. The concept is simple, by depositing manure in bands beneath the leaf canopy of a growing grass crop, you are placing it where it is less exposed to the air and closer to the roots of that crop. Utilization by the crop is enhanced and ammonia emissions are reduced.

Scientists in the Netherlands and Germany have been measuring the ammonia emissions from various manure application techniques. The results from 2 studies are presented in Table 3.

Table 3. Reduction of ammonia emissions, as influenced by method of manure application

Method of Application
Emission Reduction
Source: Lorenz & Steffens, Germany
Source: Huijsmans, et al., The Netherlands
Sleighfoot **
Shallow Injection

*Compared to conventional broadcast methods.

**Referred as "sliding shoe" or "trailing feed" in literature.

The research results are quite consistent in showing that the sleighfoot is pretty good for reducing emissions but that shallow injection techniques are even better. The problem with injection systems is an increased risk of sward damage, higher power requirements, and higher costs. German scientists Frank Lorenz concluded from his work that the sleighfoot is the "most favorable slurry application technique for use on grassland".

The sleighfoot alone will not solve the Fraser Valley's air quality problems but it certainly should be included as one of the pieces in the puzzle.

Previous Page: « AG-Canada Study Shows Slurry Can Replace Fertilizer Nitrogen On Grassland. »
Next Page: « Frequently Asked Questions »

Soil Aeration on Grassland Receiving Slurry Application: Pros and Cons for Water Quality (2001)

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A large proportion of the nitrogen requirements for growing grass for forage in South Coastal British Columbia is provided by manure. Would opening of the surface soil by an aeration implement prior to applying manure to grassland reduce the quantity of runoff and the nutrient and sediment load in the runoff ? This question is being addressed in a research trial at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Agassiz, BC.

The study was conducted on a field with a 4% slope planted to a permanent stand of orchardgrass. We set up three plots (each measuring 6 by 21m) that were aerated and three plots that were not aerated. The soil was aerated across the slope with a Holland Hitch Aerway implement in the spring and fall of each year. Both treatments received the same amount of manure after each cut of grass, five or six times per year. We measured the amount of runoff and the amount of nitrate and sediment in the runoff from each plot over the late fall and winter periods. We also measured leaching of nitrate and ammonia-N with suction cup lysimeters installed at 60 and 120 cm depth in each plot.

Preliminary results from May 1998-January 2000 show that aeration reduced the quantity of runoff and the nitrate-N loading by just over half, and the sediment load by two-thirds compared to no aeration. Ammonia-N and total Kjeldahl-N loading was reduced by just over 70% as a result of opening the surface soil with the aerator. Lysimeter data show that aeration increased concentrations of nitrate-N (33%) and ammonia-N (5%) in the soil solution at 60 cm soil depth, but no differences were found at 120 cm depth. Our preliminary data show that aeration on sloping grassland is effective in reducing runoff and its constituents but may have a tendency to increase leaching. More research is required to substantiate these results.

Correspond with Laurens van Vliet, Phone: 604-796-2221-Ext.223; Fax: 604-796-0359. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, P.O. Box 1000, Agassiz, B.C. Canada. V0M 1A0

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VIDEO: Perspectives on Wintertime Nitrogen Losses (2014)

Video:  Perspectives on Wintertime Nitrogen Losses
Dr. Shabtai Bittman, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, BC, Canada

Fall applied manure N is both conserved and lost over winter - which is right?  Dr. Shabtai Bittman proposes that to manage nitrogen on land and on farms, farmers must take into account the LEAKY PIPE model.

Leaky Pipe Model

Washington State Science Symposium: Managing Dairy Nutrients for Stewardship
May 2 2014, Olympia, WA

VIDEO: Phosphorus Management Seminar ... Making the Most of Dairy Slurry: The Dual Manure Stream Concept (2012)