It’s time to have your plan ready for manure applications in 2021

Erica Gentry
Published 8:12 p.m. CT March 3, 2021

As a busy springtime fast approaches, it’s time to have your plan ready for manure applications in 2021.

It is important to understand the conditions that lead to runoff and heightened risk for nutrient loss, so you can reduce runoff and water quality impacts. Small tweaks can lead to big benefits for your crops and the environment. Keep nutrients where they are most beneficial by following these steps throughout the season.

Before planting

Discovery Farms has monitored water quality on Wisconsin Farms since 2001. Our edge-of-field monitoring results show that March is THE month with the most surface runoff as seen depicted in thegraph.

In Wisconsin, during March, we see higher amounts of surface runoff taking place primarily due to warming temperatures leading to snowmelt or precipitation on frozen or saturated soils. For this reason, take extra caution if you need to spread manure during this risky time period.

The Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast is a great place to check before you spread. This live map utilizes models and the current weather forecast to bring you your current risk for spreading. If your risk appears to be high but you are in a need-to-spread situation due to limited storage, work with your local conservation professionals to identify fields with lower risk of runoff and utilize these areas.

Growing season

Our monitoring suggests that June is the second highest month for surface runoff values based on elevated amounts of precipitation coupled with limited soil cover and an unestablished crop canopy. Having an established crop in the field helps to absorb and contain water in the field before it has a chance to leave as runoff.

Make sure you also understand your crop fertility needs through the growing season. Base crop nutrient decisions on soil test results and research-based recommendations. Be sure to accurately credit N-P-K delivered with livestock manure. If the crop doesn’t need it, don’t put it on.

If you are spreading manure on tile drained land, be sure you are using best management practices. Look for dry, cracked soil (especially if you farm on heavy clay soil types). Dry soil cracking and earthworm macropores can create unhindered openings from the soil surface down to tile so use reduced rates to allow the soil cracks to seal shut during dry conditions.

After harvest

Wait to apply manure until soil…

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