Journal of Nutrient Management - Quarter 3 - 2020

Page 1

Published by W.D. Hoard & Sons Co.

August | 2020

Journal of

Nutrient Management

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The secrets of sludge Sidedressing manure deserves another look More bang for your buck

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BENEFITS • Dry Matter content up to 38% in solids when separating cattle slurry • Economical production of high-quality bedding from the manure solids already on the farm. No need to buy additional bedding • High dry matter content even at high throughput rates

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Volume 1 | No. 3

Journal of


14 Capturing more from manure 4 6 8 10 17 18

20 22 24

Making something out of nothing Trials fine-tune nitrogen use The secrets of sludge Sidedressing manure deserves another look A reward for nutrient solutions More bang for your buck

Andy Dellava Jane Griswold

Applicators must think ahead

Jenna Zilverberg Kim Zilverberg

Feeding seaweed to reduce emissions


New tools of the trade


DEPARTMENTS First Thoughts . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Policy Watch . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 In the Field . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Manure Minute . . . . . . . . . . . 13 On the Move . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Fresh Paint . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Places To Be . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

ON THE COVER The University of Florida Dairy Unit is located halfway between Gainesville and Alachua. The unit consists of 450 crop acres and 550 dairy cows. Manure is stored in a lagoon and then pumped across screens that seperate the solids from the liquid. A screw press removes more of the moisture, and then the solids can be trucked and land applied. Photo by Todd Garrett, Art Director.

Find us online at:

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EDITORIAL OFFICE 28 Milwaukee Ave. West Fort Atkinson, WI 53538 WEBSITE EMAIL PHONE (920) 563-5551

Journal of Nutrient Management (ISSN# 26902516) is published four times annually in February, May, August, and November by W.D. Hoard & Sons Company, 28 Milwaukee Ave. West, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin 53538 Tel: (920) 563-5551. Email: info@ Website: Postmaster: Send address corrections to: Journal of Nutrient Management, PO Box 801, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin 53538-0801. Tel: (920) 563-5551. Email: info@ Subscription Rates: Free and controlled circulation to qualified subscribers. For Subscriber Services contact: Journal of Nutrient Management, PO Box 801, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin 53538, call (920) 563-5551, Copyright © 2020 W.D. Hoard & Sons Company. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Content may not be reproduced or used for any commercial activity without express written consent from W. D. Hoard & Sons Company.

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Abby Bauer Managing Editor

he pioneers who settled this country were tough as nails. They left their homes, their occupations, and everyone they knew in search of a piece of land where they could build a house, start a farm, and make a new, hopefully better, life for themselves. Growing up, I was an avid reader of the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her life was filled with happiness and heartbreak as her family traveled west looking for new opportunities. While I enjoyed her stories, what I didn’t think about at the time was the true bravery of those early pioneers. They traveled by horse-drawn wagons and moved to a plot of land in an unsettled part of the country on a hope and a prayer. They were literally trying to make something out of nothing. Today’s farmers carry on that tradition, looking for opportunities to grow and develop their farms while feeding animals and making a living off the land. While this generation of farmers is protected from some of the devastating risks the pioneers faced, the current challenges come at a greater size and scale. One such trial is manure management. Both environmental pressure and legal regulations require farms to handle manure with care, and there is certainly a cost that comes with it. At the very least, a farm must store and then dispose of the manure that is produced. But rather than treat manure as a waste product, there is ample opportunity to turn it into something worthwhile. Most commonly, manure is used to provide valuable nutrients for growing crops and reduce commercial fertilizer inputs. On some farms, manure becomes even more than that.

From creating energy through anaerobic digestion to turning manure into dry bedding — these are uses of manure our ancestors never dreamed about. For some, the ability to convert manure into compost, energy, or more can become an unexpected revenue stream, making use of a material on the farm that has to be handled one way or another anyway. For the dairy featured on page 14, a manure separation and water treatment system led to a side business of selling fertilizer for commercial use, and it has become an exciting growth opportunity for this farm. A “side hustle” can become a lucrative part of an operation. Rather than milk more cows, raise more steers, or feed more pigs or broilers, money can be made from manure if the right tools are in place. A farm’s revenue does not have to exclusively come from selling milk or meat, and manure must be dealt with regardless. It can be a win for the farm and a win for the environment when we expand our manure treatment options. As we wrap up summer and head into fall, the busy season of harvest will be followed by manure application for many. Make the most of the nutrients that you have captured, and more importantly, stay safe while working those long days and nights. Until next time,

Let us know your thoughts. Write Managing Editor Abby Bauer, 28 Milwaukee Ave. West, P.O. Box 801, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538; call: 920-563-5551; or email:

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CALIFORNIA In early June, as many as 650 dairies and around 170 calf and heifer ranches and beef feedlots received certified letters from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. The letter was sent to inform those operations that they must comply with a new regulation dealing with groundwater nitrates. The next step for these farms will be to join a Nitrate Management Zone. The zones aren’t formed yet, but they will be by early 2021. These local groups will make decisions about supplying safe drinking water in their communities. Farm owners are encouraged to make their voices heard before final decisions are made. More information can be found at

placed on winter manure spreading. Resolution for this situation could extend well into next year. The coalition is requesting an injunction to prevent farmers from having to comply with the conditions in the permit.

WISCONSIN In northwestern Wisconsin, the Polk County Environmental Services Committee tabled a new Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) ordinance that was ready to be voted on. Those opposing the ordinance voiced concerns about how allowing large farms to come to the area would affect the local communities. In particular, they disagreed with the rule that farms and manure lagoons only had to be located 200 feet from neighbors and a quarter mile from lakes and rivers. They also criticized the low permit fee. The committee will look further into the proposed regulations and determine what the next steps should be.

MICHIGAN A coalition of agriculture groups and individual farmers filed a petition to the Michigan Office of Administrative Appeals on May 26 against the state’s updated general permit for large animal farms. The coalition includes the Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Milk Producers Association, Michigan Pork Producers Association, Michigan Allied Poultry Industries, Dairy Farmers of America, Select Milk Producers, Foremost Farms, and more than 120 farmers. The new regulations are aimed to reduce waterway pollution from manure, but the agriculture community argues that the state overstepped its regulatory authority. In particular, the farm coalition has concerns about the restrictions

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IDAHO The University of Idaho has been awarded a research grant of $10 million to make dairy manure more profitable. The five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture supports research focused on converting manure into a more transportable and commercially available fertilizer, plus investigating outlets to sell such products. The study will also fund the development and marketing of biodegradable plastics made from manure.

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TRIALS FINE-TUNE NITROGEN USE On-farm nitrogen use efficiency assessments can guide nitrogen management for economic and water quality gains. by Abby Augarten

acre or lbs./ac), or “How much did the field produce at a given N rate?” Fields with lower efficiencies not only provide an economic incentive to improve NUE but also have a need to reduce their risk to water quality. N balance, or N applied minus N removed (lbs./ac), measures the amount of unused N in a system.

Some of this unused N will be lost to volatilization, denitrification, and ammonia loss, but the main pathway of N loss is through nitrate leaching. Therefore, N balance is a good indicator of potentially leachable N and is a valuable tool to assess water quality impacts of N applications. Fields with PFP metrics in the low

Figure 1. Fields with lower efficiency have higher risk to water quality N Balance (N applied - N removed)


iscovery Farms’ Nitrogen Use Efficiency Project provides farmers and agronomists opportunities to evaluate their N management to determine economic and environmental impacts of current practices. With five growing seasons of data collection and 300 fields in our database, we have established benchmarks for different nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) categories. The benchmarks found in “Nitrogen Use Efficiency: Statewide Benchmarking for NUE in Corn Grain and Corn Silage” ( would be applicable to corn production in the Upper Midwest. An individual producer can calculate NUE for their field, compare their value to these benchmarks, and use decision trees to determine what shifts in management would be valuable for improvements in profitability and water quality. Simple NUE assessments are a quick evaluation tool to identify if, and how, NUE can be improved. The first step is to evaluate partial factor productivity (PFP) on a given field. PFP is yield divided by N applied (pounds per

250 200 150

Median: 53 lb. N/ac

Median: 26 lb. N/ac

Low to mid use efficiency 1.1-1.3 bu/lb. N

Mid to high use efficiency 1.3-1.5 bu/lb. N

100 50 0

Median: 2 lb. N/ac

Median: 106 lb. N/ac

-50 Low use efficiency <1.1 bu/lb. N

High use efficiency >1.5 bu/lb. N

Partial factor productivity (PFP) efficiency category

Table 1: Practices for improving low efficiency fields Increasing yield at a given N rate

Decreasing N rate while maintaining yield

Nitrogen management (timing, placement, and source)

Nitrogen management (rate, timing, placement, and source)

Soil health

Manure management (rate, timing, and placement)

Soil fertility

Crediting other forms of N (manure testing and crediting, and credits from alfalfa)

Pest management

Crop rotation and legumes

Variety selection

Soil health (organic matter and nutrient cycling)

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the soil is estimated by measuring the nitrogen uptake of the crop in the zero-N test strip and subtracting the amount of nitrogen applied as starter fertilizer. In our dataset, this estimate of soil N supplied varied greatly. The median was 75 pounds N/ac and data ranged between 20 and 250 pounds N/ac. We see a lot of variability due to inherent soil properties, field specific dynamics, management styles, and weather patterns, which highlights the challenge of implementing a universal N rate for a given region or state. Alternatively, by better understanding how individual fields behave without any N inputs, producers can fine-tune their N management to best serve their production system. As farmers focus on conservation practices and transitioning to soil health systems, zero-N test strips are a useful tool to track changes in their nitrogen cycling. As the amount of soil N provided increases, there could be potential for producers to scale back on N inputs and maintain yield, which would result in economic gains and

and low-mid use efficiency categories have higher N balances and pose a greater risk to water quality (Figure 1). These fields have the greatest potential — and need — to improve NUE. Improving efficiencies can be accomplished through a suite of practices (see table). In our database, fields with a PFP categorized as low and low-mid use efficiency have the greatest potential to improve for economic and water quality gains. Generally, improving NUE is accomplished by increasing yield at a given N rate or decreasing N rate while maintaining yield.

The value of test strips Intensive NUE monitoring with in-field test strips is valuable to understand N cycling and potential to reduce N rates. In-field test strips add insight into nitrogen cycling dynamics and if or how producers can improve their NUE. Producers could include either a zero-N test strip or a reduced N rate test strip in their field. A zero-N test strip serves as an indicator of soil health. Nitrogen supplied by

Figure 2. Comparing profits and risk to water quality 550

Reduced N test strip (N applied as fertilizer)


Reduced N test strip (N applied as organic source)

Increase in profit (from full N rate)


reductions in potentially leachable N. Reduced N test strips evaluate the economic and water quality impacts of a full N rate compared to the reduced rate. We typically observe that at higher N rates, improvement in profits is marginal compared to additional risk in water quality. In Figure 2, which shows the increase in profit versus increase in N balance of the full N rate compared to the reduced N test strip, we observe a lot of variability. In some cases, additional fertilizer was very efficiently utilized so that the full N rate greatly raised profits with no or little increase to N balance. In other cases, additional fertilizer was inefficient, with little or no benefit to profits and a large increase in N balance. Some fields (indicated with the blue points) had reduced N test strips, where N inputs were exclusively an organic source (manure or legume credits). These fields tended to have a less efficient response to the additional fertilizer of the full N rate, meaning the full rate had a smaller rise in profit compared to the increase in N balance. If we can improve how we credit organic sources and reduce fertilizer inputs accordingly, there is potential to enhance NUE for fields that behave this way.

Room to grow Participating in on-farm NUE research is a great way to improve N management in the face of rising fertilizer costs and scrutiny in reducing nitrate leaching. Discovery Farms’ guide on how to calculate NUE for your farm, “Nitrogen Use Efficiency: A guide to conducting your own assessment” (, is a great resource. ■

400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0

For more information regarding Discovery Farms or the NUE Project, visit

-50 -100 -150 -40







100 120 140 160 180 200

Increase in N balance (from full N rate)

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The author is the Nitrogen Use Efficiency Project Coordinator for Discovery Farms.

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The secrets of sludge It takes up space in manure lagoons, but sludge is actually a valuable nutrient-dense fertilizer source. by Mahmoud Sharara and Stephanie Kulesza


ludge is a nutrient-rich by-product of manure storage and treatment. Sludge accumulates at the bottom of the lagoon as a result of two processes: the biological treatment by microbial communities and the solids settling from gravity. When compared to manure, sludge contains more solids and less organic matter. Different species collect sludge at different rates, with typical values between 0.22 and 0.54 gallon per pound of total solids (TS) entering the lagoon (Gal. /lb. TS). With continued use for manure storage and treatment, the volume of sludge in the lagoon grows until clean out is required. Lagoon design standards specify volumes required for manure treatment and storage, as well as rainfall, occasional storms, and sludge storage (Figure 1). To determine the sludge design volume, the operator specifies a period of time, from five to 15 years, after which the sludge will be removed.

impacts, it is recommended to regularly track the volume of sludge in the lagoon by conducting a sludge survey. Tracking sludge volume helps producers anticipate and plan for sludge removal when it becomes necessary. Surveying lagoon sludge can be accomplished manually or using remote tools. Surveys require measuring the distance from the liquid surface to the sludge at multiple points (eight to 12) distributed on a grid in the lagoon. A disc tied to a rope or connected to a pole can be used to measure depth to sludge. Remote methods such as a

Figure 1. A single-stage anaerobic manure treatment lagoon (adapted from USDA-NRCS).

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Start pump Irrigate

Current lagoon level

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The sludge that settles at the bottom of a manure pit is extremely high in several nutrients, including phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and copper.

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Lagoon level marker

Lagoon berm

Take a measurement As volume of accumulated sludge proliferates, treatment and storage volumes are reduced. This can be a significant constraint to producers, particularly in wet regions with heavy rainfall and rainstorms where overtopping or inundation can occur. Sludge removal is also necessary to maintain lagoon treatment performance and minimize the potential of objectionable odors. To avoid these sludge-related

remote-controlled boat equipped with sonars or a fishing rod with a fish finder can also be used. Acoustic methods, like sonar, are sensitive to the amount of suspended solids and can report an error if the distance to the sludge is too shallow (less than 2 feet). Therefore, it is always helpful to have a backup tool for surveying sludge. Prior to removing sludge, it is necessary to collect sludge samples to determine nutrient concentration and which fields and crops would be best suited to receive the removed sludge. In North Carolina, annual sludge surveys are a

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regulatory requirement for permitted operations. Operators use various techniques to collect sludge samples. The choice of sampler is important to ensure the collected sample captures the composition of the sludge that will be removed for land application or utilized later. Producers typically use a sampling bottle connected to a long pole to grab multiple sludge samples (10 to 20 samples) then combine them before sending a composite sample for analysis. Analyzing duplicate or triplicate samples help reduce any sampling bias. It also allows producers to accurately determine nutrient amounts that will be managed.

Nutrients are concentrated Sludge contains more solids and minerals (phosphorus, zinc, copper, and magnesium) than fresh manure or lagoon liquid. Typically, lagoon liquid contains less than 1% total solids, while sludge contains from 10% to 20% total solids. Another difference in sludge from fresh manure is the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K) ratio. While fresh swine manure has an N-P-K ratio of around 5-1-2, the swine lagoon sludge N-P-K ratio is 5-5-1. This means that sludge application on an N-basis risks introducing significant amounts of phosphorus that can raise soil P levels and elevate P runoff. A study tracking distribution of nutrients within a lagoon found that more than 90% of lagoon P, calcium, and magnesium was in the sludge, with average concentrations of 32, 38, and 10 pounds per 1,000 gallons, respectively. When we compared multi-year analysis results of lagoon liquid and sludge samples, we found zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu) concentrations in the sludge were 30 and 35 times greater than in the liquid. These findings reveal both a challenge and an opportunity for animal producers using lagoons for manure management. The first challenge is the high cost of sludge removal, whether agitating and pumping or dredging, when compared to lagoon liquid irrigation. In cases where sludge removal was delayed, the cost of sludge removal and utilization can become prohibitive. Another constraint in managing sludge is the high concentration of Zn, Cu, and P, which can require very low application rates and large acreage to utilize these nutrients agronomically. These fields are typically found farther from the lagoon, which also raises the cost of handling.

an energy production feedstock is another option to concentrate sludge minerals while recovering energy to offset drying requirements. Several producers, integrators, and technology developers are exploring new approaches beyond direct land application to remove, process, and utilize sludge. Coordinating such efforts in areas with a high density of lagoons can greatly reduce the cost of adoption by using centralized or collaborative processing schemes. This could generate value-added by-products, which would further offset the cost of adoption. â– Additional resources ludge sampling in anaerobic treatment swine lagoons S Available online at Sludge management in anaerobic swine lagoons: A review By Owusu-Twum, M. Y., and Sharara, M. A. Published in the Journal of Environmental Management, 271, 110949Â Sharara is an assistant professor and extension specialist in the department of biological and agricultural engineering, and Kulesza is an assistant professor and extension specialist in the department of crop and soil sciences at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.

Opportunities for use Despite these challenging attributes, sludge offers producers an opportunity to improve their nutrient use efficiency retroactively. This is mainly because the sludge in lagoons represents the accumulation of nutrients from many years of past production. Implementing a dewatering step using solid-liquid separation can greatly improve nutrient use efficiency. Although sludge dewatering raises the nutrient concentration in the solids, it reduces the cost of transportation. Sludge solids can also be composted, or co-composted, which improves their agronomic properties and opens other utilization avenues. The use of separated solids as

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This corn is being sidedressed with liquid swine manure using a dragline hose system.

Sidedressing manure deserves another look On-farm research demonstrates there’s an alternative time to get manure applied to corn. by Melissa Wilson


n recent years, the window of manure application in the Upper Midwest has been limited by wet or unseasonably cold weather. Additionally, farmers with older-style hog barns have deep pits that fill up faster than they did in the past, so they no longer have a full year of storage and often look for somewhere to apply manure in the summer. Sidedressing into a growing crop

opens up an alternative window of opportunity. Studies of sidedressing swine manure into corn in Ohio have shown promising results, so we wanted to test it in Minnesota.Â

Trials in the field In on-farm experiments near Le Sueur, Minn., we tested several nitrogen sources for sidedressing corn over two different growing seasons in 2018 and 2019. Our

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primary goals were to see if finishing swine manure could be used and if it could be applied with a dragline hose system. Why finishing swine manure? A large proportion of the nitrogen is in the plant-available form right away, similar to commercial fertilizers. Unlike commercial fertilizers, however, which are generally 100% plant-available shortly after application, a small

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F3 10-12 Aug 2020 Sidedressing.indd 2

Figure 1. Influence of sidedressed nitrogen source on corn yield Corn yield (bushels/acre)

portion of nitrogen in manure is in the organic form, which acts as a slow-release fertilizer. Both years, we set up the experiment in second-year corn in a corncorn-soybean rotation in a conventional till system. The corn was planted in early May with approximately 40 pounds of nitrogen applied with the planter. We sidedressed the corn in early June in large strips (about 24 rows) when the corn was at about the fourth leaf collar stage (V4 growth stage). Each treatment had four of its own strips randomly placed across the field. We aimed to get it applied before the growing point of the corn emerged (around V6). The sidedressed nitrogen sources included anhydrous ammonia and liquid urea-ammonium nitrate. The third source, finishing swine manure, was applied at around 3,500 gallons per acre with a drag hose system and a 12-row applicator (see photo on previous page). For all three nitrogen source treatments, we aimed to apply 140 pounds of nitrogen per acre (in addition to the 40 pounds of nitrogen applied with the planter). For the swine manure, we assumed 75% of the total nitrogen would be plant-available in the first year. In addition to these three treatments, we also included strips where no nitrogen was sidedressed (the control plots). This was so that we could see if our nitrogen sources did, in fact, make an impact on the corn. Both years were wetter than normal during the growing season, and we applied in slightly wetter conditions than we would have liked. Despite the issues, yield was similar across nitrogen sources in 2018 (see Figure 1). In 2019, after finishing the manure application, we realized that we had applied a slightly lower rate than intended. Based on our calculations, we applied about 90 pounds of first year N instead of the 140 pounds that we had aimed for. We also observed in the field that more soil clumps had been thrown up on the corn plants during applica-

250 200




a c





100 50 0


Dragline UAN 2018



Dragline UAN 2019 Treatment within years


The treatments in 2018 and 2019 were anhydrous ammonia, dragline liquid swine manure, liquid urea ammonium nitrate (UAN), or a control that didn’t have any sidedressed N. Yield is shown with a letter above the bar. If the letter is the same as the letter above a different bar, then the yield was not significantly different. tion than the previous year, likely due to the wetter soil conditions. These two factors were reflected in the yield that fall, though we suspect

the low nitrogen rate was more problematic. The swine manure plots had a significantly lower yield compared to the anhydrous and liquid UAN plots.

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Corn yield (bushels/acre)

Figure 2. Impact of dragline manure hose on corn yield 300


250 200 150









ď § Hybrid



50 0

ď § Hybrid


e d V6

Corn growth stage when dragged This figure shows the impact of dragging a manure dragline hose over corn at various growth stages on corn yield. Hybrid A was Pioneer P0339R and Hybrid B was Pioneer P0306AM. Yield is shown with a letter above the bar. If the letter is the same as the letter above a different bar, then the yield was not significantly different. All three sidedressed nutrient sources were significantly higher than the non-sidedressed control, though.

Rates and conditions mattered What can we conclude from this research? When the liquid swine manure was applied at a similar nitrogen rate (first year available nitrogen) as the commercial fertilizers, the yields were similar. Therefore, we may have found an alternative window of opportunity to apply manure in Minnesota. In the second year, however, results showed that application rates and field conditions matter. More research is needed to fine-tune the practice, and more experience will help with more consistent application across a variety of field conditions.

Deciding when to drag After conducting the on-farm research in 2018, we had more questions. Is there a limit to the size of the corn that can be dragged with a dragline hose? Would this be impacted by corn hybrids? In 2019, we started a small-plot research trial at a University of Minnesota research station in St. Paul, Minn., to answer these questions. The plots were four corn rows wide by 40 feet long, and each treatment was replicated four times. We chose two different corn hybrids, one that tends to be more resistant

to green snap issues in high wind (Hybrid A) and one that tends to be less resistant (Hybrid B). Green snap typically occurs between development stages V5 (fifth corn leaf collar is present) and tasseling due to rapid stalk growth making corn plants brittle. Corn is usually sidedressed at earlier growth stages, but it was thought these corn traits might be important for the crop when a hose is dragged over it. Dragging treatments used a waterfilled, 6-inch drag hose to mimic an application with slurry, pulled behind a tractor over corn at development stages V1 to V6. We also had a control plot that was not dragged with the hose. The photos to the right show the process and what the corn looked like later in the season. In the fall, yield was collected (see Figure 2). This initial study suggests that corn can safely be dragged up to the V4 growth stage and that hybrid did not seem to make a difference up to that point. At the V5 and V6 growth stages, however, yield was significantly reduced. We also saw that Hybrid A tended to be impacted more by dragging than Hybrid B because yields were lower at V5 and V6. We will continue the small-plot study for a second year. We are also starting a new, on-farm project to evaluate manure sidedress application

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The setup used for dragging corn with a dragline hose at various growth stages.

An aerial photo of the plots where corn was dragged at various growth stages from V1 to V6. The photo was taken in mid-July. timing. This spring, we used a tanker applicator to apply finishing swine manure at V1, V3, and V7 and will compare it to anhydrous ammonia sidedressed at V3. Keep an eye out for future updates! â– We appreciate the partial funding for this study from the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council and the Minnesota Pork Board. We are also thankful to Bazooka Farmstar for lending us the toolbar for sidedressing and to Minnesota Valley Pumping Service for applying the manure.

The author is an assistant professor and extension specialist in manure management at the University of Minnesota.

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anure and used bedding from poultry farms can be a valuable fertilizer source. This litter meets corn’s nitrogen needs while having a liming effect on acidic soils, adding organic matter to fields, and supporting beneficial bacteria. When surface-applied, up to 60% of the total nitrogen can be lost through ammonia volatilization. Subsurface application can reduce nutrient loss, but research has shown that planting directly into bands of spread poultry litter can result in stunted growth and poor stand establishment.

To better utilize the poultry litter, a team at the USDA Agricultural Research Station in Booneville, Ark., developed an implement for subsurface band application of dry poultry litter. A study found that the implement reduced volatilization by 88%. Then, to determine the appropriate corn seeding distance from the poultry litter bands, another study was conducted on three sites in Arkansas and Alabama. The researchers planted corn 5, 10, and 15 inches from subsurface banded poultry litter, surface applied poultry litter, inorganic nitro-

gen, and a control (no application). According to the results that were published in the Agronomy Journal, the 5-inch distance produced the greatest grain yield, which was similar to the inorganic fertilizer plots. Grain neutral detergent fiber, crude fiber, phosphorus, and potassium fractions were all favorable for the 5-inch band distance treatment. These researchers determined that subsurface banding poultry litter 5 inches away from corn rows may be a comparable, and sometimes superior, replacement for inorganic fertilizers.

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Manure from the cows at Robinway Dairy moves through a treatment system that creates concentrated nutrients and usable water.

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All photos: Abby Bauer


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At Robinway Dairy, the opportunities to recycle nutrients and water continue to grow. by Abby Bauer, Managing Editor


hen Jay Binversie was a freshman in high school, he traveled to California with his father to visit Maddox Dairy. That trip confirmed his desire to farm, but he wanted to do it on a larger scale than their current 200-cow operation located near Kiel, Wis. “I decided I wanted to manage people and manage a business,” he said. Seven years later, Binversie graduated with a bachelor’s degree in dairy science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and he and his wife, Pam, immediately purchased the farm from his parents, Robert and Janet. “I knew what I wanted to do,” he said. As was Binversie’s plan, he started to grow the herd and expand the farm. Some of the most recent additions came in 2014, when they built a new parlor, feed center, feed pad, and a cross-ventilated freestall barn. Currently, they have 1,760 cows in the milking herd and average 87 pounds of milk per cow per day. They also farm 1,750 acres of cropland. The Binversies do their own field work and planting, and then custom hire their harvesting and manure hauling. Binversie is a partner with seven other dairies in a heifer rearing facility in Colorado. Right now, all their heifers are custom raised there; soon, calves will also make the trip West to be grown. That will leave more room on the home farm to expand the number of steers that can be raised. Right now, they feed out 700 steers annually to sell as farm-to-table beef.

on-farm would also require nutrients to be trucked farther to be field-applied, raising hauling costs and requiring the purchase of expensive land in a competitive market. That led Binversie to install the state’s first Livestock Water Recycling (LWR) manure treatment system in 2015. He said the system extracts up to 70% of the water from manure while concentrating and segregating the nutrients. Prior to entering the system, manure is cleared from the freestall barns using a flush system. Manure then travels to



Reduce, reuse, recycle As the farm grew, “sustainability became even more of a priority,” Binversie said. While Binversie identified the switch to sand bedding in 2007 as his number one best investment, it is closely followed by the installation of their pivot irrigation system the next year. By improving the productivity of his crop fields, the return on investment for the irrigation system was just 2.5 years. Another decision to make the farm more efficient and environmentally friendly came a few years later, when herd size reached a level that maxed out their current manure storage capacity. Binversie explained that adding another 10 million or 12 million-gallon lagoon would mean more surface area and more odor, and he wasn’t eager to go down that path. More manure stored

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“...had results in the first week of application. The manure smelled different and was very easy to pump.” -- East Wisconsin dairy

“The manure hauler commented he never had a pit of manure that was pumpable without agitation.” -- East Pennsylvania dairy

“The smell and the air quality has improved dramatically.”

-- Northeast Iowa dairy (800) 435-9560 AGRIKING.COM

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Dairyman Jay Binversie made investments to minimize the amount of manure stored on farm and make better use of his nutrients and water.

the treatment building, where the solids are mechanically removed. The first wave of the system removes 95% of the phosphorus from their manure. Binversie explained that these solids, which are obviously high in phosphorus, can be trucked to fields farther away from the farm that are in greater need of the nutrient. One load of the micro material is equivalent to 10 loads of manure and reduces the number of trucks that must travel on the country roads each fall.

Using the liquids From June to mid-September, Binversie stores the remaining liquid manure portion in an old slurry store and is able to irrigate that liquid, which contains nitrogen, potassium, ammonia, and other micronutrients, on his crop fields. This adds even more value to the irrigation system investment. He found that they could apply this nutrient-filled liquid on corn once a week from when it is knee high until it tassels, resulting in a 3- to 5-ton yield bump per acre. In addition, the risk of leaching is eliminated since the product is distributed in small amounts. “We found agronomic advantages we weren’t expecting,” he said. During the remainder of the year, the removed liquid portion of the manure continues on through the complete treatment process. First, it travels through screens to remove the fine solids, and then goes through further filtration and purification with the use of polymers and reverse osmosis. Finally, the dissolved solids are removed, creating a concentrated nutrient product containing potassium and ammo-

nia and clean, reusable water. Binversie uses this recycled water on the dairy in many ways, such as cleaning equipment, washing the milking parlor floors, mixing footbath solutions, filling the polymer tanks for the treatment system, and more. The farm has been using recycled sand for bedding for more than a decade, and now they use this water to wash the sand, too. The piece of equipment that has given the farm its fastest payback was the bedding dryer Binversie installed 2.5 years ago. Binversie said this addition dropped their somatic cell count from 200,000 to 125,000 somatic cells per milliliter and paid for itself in just one year. Binversie also uses the dryer to remove moisture from the micro product, condensing its volume even further. The dried sand and dried micro are stored in an old feed bunker until used. By recycling the water found in manure, Binversie creates an estimated 16 million gallons of clean water a year. That is 16 million gallons of water that doesn’t need to be drawn from the well, and nearly 3,000 fewer truckloads of manure that need to be hauled. “It’s very environmentally friendly,” Binversie said. “That’s the best part of the story.”

A side enterprise The opportunity to improve the environment and give farming a good reputation guided him to the manure treatment system, but it also opened another door for Binversie. A chat with a friend one evening led to an idea that spurred a side business, and Bucky Organics was born. Using the nutrients removed from the manure, they created an organic

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fertilizer product that can be used in nurseries, by gardeners, and by other farmers. In the company’s third year, Binversie sells both dried fertilizer and bottled liquid concentrate in gallon containers and larger totes. They also sell a hand sanitizer product. Binversie said their products are shipped all over the country, and they have become very popular with hemp farmers as an organic nutrient source. “It’s not the main reason we put in the manure treatment system,” Binversie said, “but it has been a fun thing.” He sees more growth opportunities for Bucky Organics and is eager to build upon this part of his operation.

Opportunity in the future Binversie is the general manager of Robinway Dairy, and his wife, Pam, does the bookwork and landscaping for the farm. They have a solid team of managers, including someone who oversees manure separation and water recycling on the farm.

Some of the recycled water is stored prior to being irrigated onto growing crops. Longevity is important to Binversie, and eight of their 28 employees have been with the farm for more than 12 years. He looks for people with positive attitudes, he said, because that helps create positivity all around the farm. What does the future look like for Robinway Dairy? Binversie isn’t sure yet. He and his wife have three daughters who are all pursing careers off of the farm, but maybe that will change someday. Or, perhaps Binversie will bring in another partner. For now, Binversie is excited to find more ways to recycle nutrients on the farm, maintain positive neighborhood relationships, and grow the Bucky Organics business. “There’s a lot of opportunity here,” he said. ■

7/30/20 1:09 PM

A reward for nutrient solutions In the first ever Manure Innovation Challenge, a company from Michigan was named the winner. by Abby Bauer, Managing Editor


s farms look for ways to better utilize manure, companies have risen to the task of finding novel solutions. Adoption of these new technologies can be slow, though, often making the manure innovation space a difficult one to break into. Enter the Yield Lab Institute. According to Chief Operating Officer Brandon Day, the institute is a nonprofit ag tech think tank that aims to serve as a catalyst for early innovations, helping accelerate their path to market and commercialization. This is done through a variety of initiatives, including innovation challenges.

A new contest Day said it was with that spirit in mind that they launched the Manure Innovation Challenge last year for manure-based products and services. This was in partnership with Cargill, the Maschhoffs, WeWork Food Labs, Newtrient, Dairy Farmers of America, and their environmental advisory partner, World Wildlife Fund. A global call for ag tech startups resulted in 60 applicants from around the world. Eight of the companies were selected as finalists. “The Manure Innovation Chal-

lenge has a two prong effort to try to advance these ideas,” said Day. The first prong is intentional mentorship and networking. Each finalist was assigned a business mentor to help outline goals and objectives and grow their ideas. They also had access to the Yield Lab Institute’s global network of ag tech stakeholders. Secondly, there was a monetary reward. Each startup was competing for non-dilutive capital of $50,000 to help advance their business. The Manure Innovation Challenge culminated with a virtual meeting where each of the eight finalists pitched their ideas to a live, worldwide audience. A panel of global judges carefully evaluated and ranked the finalists before naming Digested Organics as the winner of the first ever Manure Innovation Challenge.

Digested Organics currently has three commercial farm installations and several projects in the works. For more information about the Michigan-based company, visit The other finalists are listed in the box below. More information about this year’s Manure Innovation Challenge can be found at manure-challenge. ■

From waste to water According to Robert Lavigne, the company’s chief executive officer and co-founder, Digested Organics works to meet the manure challenges farmers face head on. In his company’s pitch, he explained that their system uses filtration to transform manure into clean water, concentrated fertilizers, and renewable energy.

MEET THE OTHER CONTEST FINALISTS The other finalists in the Manure Innovation Challenge included: BioFiltro Biomass Control

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August 2020 | Journal of Nutrient Management | 17

7/31/20 11:02 AM

More bang for your buck Application tools and principles can help farmers get more out of their applied nutrients. by Erica Rogers

Fair guidelines to follow The first R is right source. In order to determine the right source, the following should be taken into account: • Are the fertilizer nutrients being used (commercial or manure) available for immediate uptake, or is it delayed? • Is there a combination of fertilizers that can be utilized best? • What nutrients are already available in the soil? The next R is right rate: • Match the amount of fertilizer applied to the crop nutrient uptake. What is the crop nutrient demand? • Perform a soil analysis (manure analysis as well if using this as the fertilizer source) to appropriately match the amount of fertilizer needed for crops based on individual

field fertility. • Make sure the equipment being used to spread the fertilizer or manure is calibrated properly for appropriate distribution. • Be sure operators of the equipment spreading the fertilizer or manure are trained properly in using the equipment and know the appropriate rates and paths. • Consider crop yield goals. • Remember the law of diminishing returns: The unit of nutrient applied equals the crop yield increase generated (see Figure 1). The third R is right time: • Plan for fertilizer nutrients to be available during crop demand — many times this is close to the time

$0.60 $1 $2

Economic optimum The amount of input where: $1 input returns $1 worth of output

$4 $10

Overall @ EOR Spent $5 Return $42 $8.40 return / $1 spent

$25 10 lb/a 20 lb/a 30 lb/a 40 lb/a 50 lb/a 60 lb/a






• Biological response • Cost of input • Value of output


$ Growth factor (nutrient) Courtesy of Douglas Beegle, Penn State University.

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of planting. • Consider the weather and seasonal conditions. There is potentially more nutrient runoff during the winter, and saturated fields are unable to retain nutrients effectively. Application of fertilizer immediately before a large rainfall could contribute to nutrient runoff. Michigan EnviroImpact is a runoff risk decision support tool to help with short-term planning of nutrient applications. Other regional runoff risk decision support tools can be found in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Minnesota. • Include mitigation of potential odors, mainly with manure. Consider location of neighbors, timing

Figure 1: There are economic benefits — up to a point

$ Plant response


he four R’s of nutrient stewardship, or nutrient management, are commonly referred to when talking about proper nutrient application. The four R’s stand for right source, right rate, right time, and right place. This recommendation serves to guide farmers to the practices that help keep nutrients on and in the field. Implementation of the four R’s helps to align the economic, environmental, and social components of nutrient management. The Nutrient Stewardship 4R Pocket Guide ( helps to explain what the components are for each of the four R’s.

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around holidays, and nearby public areas like schools, hospitals, township halls, churches, and so forth. Lastly, determine the right place: • Place fertilizer in the root zone, where crops can successfully access the nutrients. • Consider the management practices for each field based on the crop being grown; soil type; slope; distance to surface waters; soil characteristics (can differ throughout the field) like nutrient supply capacity and the vulnerability to nutrient loss; phosphorus or P-Index; and potentially incorporate GPS and variable rate seeding data.

Document the details It is also important to keep records. Why? Records allow for assessment and refinement over time. Records of manure and soil analyses along with yields, nutrient applications, and even weather patterns allow for a retrospective look as to what worked in a field and what did not. They also allow refinements to be made to nutrient management plans that are in place to not only use less nutrients where possible, but to also improve crop yields while remaining environmentally sustainable.

gives you a better idea of the value of your farm’s manure and the amount of money you may save in commercial fertilizer cost. By utilizing the four R’s of nutrient stewardship, manure value calculators, and regional runoff risk decision support tools, you not only can be successful in

proper nutrient application, but you can do it in ways that give you the most bang for your buck. ■ The author is an environmental management educator with Michigan State University Extension.

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Calculate the value If using manure, what could that manure be worth from an economic value standpoint? University of Minnesota Extension has developed a tool called the “What’s manure worth? ” calculator. This tool allows individuals to rapidly estimate the value of manure for specific manure types, application methods, soil nutrient status, and crop needs. It can also create estimates based on fertilizer replacement value and application costs. It is recommended to use a manure analysis obtained on your farm versus book values when possible. Book values may not always accurately represent the actual concentration of nutrients that are available. Additionally, it

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7/30/20 1:13 PM

Applicators must think ahead

Careful preparations allow custom manure haulers to secure the necessary personnel and equipment before heading to a job site. by Abby Bauer, Managing Editor


n their busiest seasons, professional manure applicators are constantly in a race against time to meet the needs of their clients. These farms depend on custom applicators to empty their manure storages and deliver nutrients to the field. While weather most often dictates an applicator’s schedule, there is leg work that can be done prior to arriving on a farm to make the job go smoother for everyone involved. Rick Martens, who has been a custom manure applicator in Minnesota for more than three and a half decades, shared his pre- and post-application checklist to attendees of the Professional Nutrient Applicators Association of Wisconsin Annual Symposium.

Long before you get there Martens, who owns Marten’s Manurigation in Mora, Minn., said that there is some information that can be gathered from a customer well in advance, perhaps right after you get the first call from a new contact. First off, he said to get contact information for the lead person at the farm site. “I would advise you only talk to one person from the farm, not several. Then you have one person making decisions,” he explained. Obtain the address and location of all fields where manure will be applied.

Martens shared that for his business, they keep a laminated list of all customers’ addresses in each one of their trucks for easy access by all employees. Biosecurity concerns should be addressed, as these can vary from farm to farm. “You want to know about any special requests up front,” he said. “You want to know that you can achieve what they expect you to do.” Similarly, check with the farmer about any local, county, township, or state ordinances you need to know about, and find out if there are any road weight restrictions. He also said to request a copy of the farm’s manure management plan so it can be followed. As for the manure, confirm the amount that is supposed to be applied, and ask for any manure test results. Consider the type of manure: whether it’s liquid or solid, what species it came from, and the bedding type and barn style. “Know what you are getting into to, and know if you can handle it or not,” he advised. “Get this information well in advance rather than showing up and finding out you can’t do the job.” Manure storage type is also a consideration when committing to a job. Is the pit earthen, concrete, or lined? Where are the pump out locations? Are there fences to get through, and what is the slope around the lagoon?

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For storage under slatted floor barns, Marten said you must know what the pump access is like. For aboveground pits, ask about pumps and agitation equipment. “You want to know this before you get there,” Martens reiterated. “The way weather has been, saving time is a big issue.” Ask about the anticipated manure target application rate, the desired timing of application, and if there is any flexibility in timing. An important side of running a business is the financial aspect. Martens said to review pricing with all customers, which could include a written or verbal contract. Let them know how you charge — per ton, per gallon, or per hour — and if you offer any discounts, such as a reduced fee for immediate payment or for hiring some custom work in an off season. “Be up front about the cost with the farmer,” he said. Martens said to review field locations, and possibly visit the fields beforehand. Review the route and take note of any shared field roads, road crossings, weight restrictions, or construction detours. Find out if any permits are needed, and if so, who is going to get them. Likewise, decide who is providing the fuel and how much will be available. By knowing all of this, a custom applicator can make necessary plans

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for equipment and personnel requirements. “These are all things we can do before we get to the farm, maybe before we even get into the manure hauling season,” he said. “That way, when you get to the farm, you can hit the ground running and keep rolling.”

On the way As application day for a farm approaches, Martens said to confirm the date with the farm site supervisor and make sure their fields are ready. Also keep an eye on weather predictions. “We have to know what the weather is doing,” he said. A manure applicator must determine which farm to go to first. Maybe there’s a farm that you really want to get done, but they will be planting corn silage on the fields where you are spreading, versus a neighbor who needs to grow grain corn. “Sometimes you have to make those hard decisions about who’s the most important at the time,” Martens said. Ask about any wells, ditches, tile inlets, or waterways where application should be avoided. Inquire about any unusual characteristics of the field. Martens said this is the time to make sure your equipment is ready to go. Walk around and look at tires, lights, hitch pins, and so forth. Investigate any cracks, dents, and missing or broken pieces. Check lubrication fluids and oil levels, and keep up on the maintenance of all tractors, trucks, and pumps. Make it a habit to look at a piece of equipment every time you walk by it, Martens said. “Be diligent about this, because you might prevent an accident or downtime later on,” he noted.

Get the job done Upon arrival, contact the site manager to confirm acres, rates, and field locations. Review the manure management plan with all crew members. “We enter so many unique situations,” he said. “Everyone on the crew has to be up to speed.” Ask the farmer about any speed or dust restrictions on the roads, and if there are any fences or obstacles (bulls, for example) on the farm. He said to be aware of residential areas, people, and especially children. Rather than driving right by the farmer’s house with every load, consider another path if there are young children in the area. As for your team, Martens said, “Communicate, communicate, communicate.” Talk about maintenance needs, leaks, unusual smells or sounds, or anything out of the ordinary. “If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t,” he said. During application, monitor the overall rate and put someone in charge of collecting manure samples. “Is the farmer getting what he paid for?” Martens asked rhetorically. “He’s paying you to make sure the nutrients are getting in the field, and we have to hit that target rate.”

Before you leave When the job is done and it is time to move on to the next site, prepare for mobilization. Martens said to clean equipment as appropriate and walk about the equipment to check

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everything over. Also evaluate the work site for garbage, mud, or manure spills. “After we are done with a site, we want to make it look decent,” he said. “The reputation of the company is how you leave the site when it’s all said and done.” A good reputation is how you get repeat customers, and Martens said it is important for employees to know the value of reputation. When application is complete, prepare the bill and follow up with the site supervisor. Martens said this is a good time to ask the farmer if they have any questions or concerns. “That lets them know you care about the job you do,” he said. Being prepared for a job is not only important for customer relations. The items on this checklist could also be critical for the future of your business. Martens said he once asked two of his employees, “If something happened to me, could you finish the season?” Their response was that they could get to the end of the day. “We (as applicators and business owners) do so many things we don’t even think about, and our employees may not see those things,” he explained. Documenting this information helps keep your business running smoothly and prepares you to do your job when Mother Nature gives the green light. ■

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August 2020 | Journal of Nutrient Management | 21

7/30/20 12:37 PM

Feeding seaweed to reduce emissions Is seaweed a viable enteric methane mitigation option for the dairy industry? by A.N. Hristov


opular media has created a buzz around feeding seaweed to ruminants in order to cut down their enteric methane emissions. Curbing methane release to the atmosphere (whether from oil and gas or livestock) is important, and the animal science community and livestock and feed industries are working hard on finding effective and economically feasible mitigation technologies with some real successes in recent years. The dairy nutrition group at Penn State started investigating seaweeds as feed additives about two years ago, supported by federal and private organization grants. Our efforts have been directed toward in vitro screening of a large number of temperate and tropical seaweed species for their methane mitigation potential. We are also investigating dairy cattle responses to Asparagopsis taxiformis, a red seaweed shown to have a large inhibitory effect on enteric methane emission in sheep, and more recently, beef cattle by Australian researchers.

A closer look at seaweed The in vitro work is ongoing and was reported at the 2019 Northeast American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) meeting, and another abstract was presented this summer at the 2020 ADSA meeting. This article will be focused on the A. taxiformis work.

Researchers at Penn State evaluated the inclusion of a seaweed called Asparagopsis taxiformis in dairy cow diets. Asparagopsis taxiformis is a macro alga found in tropical and warm temperate waters. The species deposits compounds called bromoforms which, along with other halogenated compounds (chloroform and bromochloromethane), have been shown to have potent methane mitigation properties. The mode of action of this class of compounds is thought to be through inhibition of the methanogenic pathway at the final step of methane formation. The methane inhibition effect of A. taxiformis has been demonstrated in several in vitro experiments, and more recently, in exper-

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iments with live animals. The halogens are known to cause ozone depletion and are banned in many countries around the world. These compounds are also suspected to be carcinogenic. Preliminary in vitro data at Penn State showed that A. taxiformis reduces methane formation by 95% at a 1% inclusion rate (on a dry matter basis). These in vitro experiments were followed by several experiments (two completed and one ongoing) with lactating dairy cows. A. taxiformis was fed at 0.25% up to 0.75% of the cows’ daily dry matter intake. In the first study, aimed at

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ing the optimal dose of A. taxiformis, we saw a sharp drop in feed intake at a 0.75% inclusion rate and decided to not investigate higher doses. The mechanism of the negative effect of A. taxiformis on feed intake is unclear but is likely related to palatability issues. In that study, the seaweed lowered daily methane emission by 79% at a 0.50% inclusion with no further improvement at the 0.75% inclusion rate. Methane yield (which is methane emission expressed per unit of feed dry matter intake) was reduced by 81% at the 0.50% inclusion. A. taxiformis had no effect on feed intake of the cows up to 0.50% inclusion, but at 0.75%, dry matter intake dropped by 22% (50 versus 39 pounds per day for the control and for A. taxiformis-fed cows, respectively). Milk yield fell by 10 pounds per day (from 101 to 91 pounds, respectively). In our second experiment, which was around four months in duration, A. taxiformis at a 0.50% inclusion lowered daily methane emission and emission yield on average by 34% and 29%, respectively, but the mitigation effect clearly diminished over time. In the first two months of the experiment, methane yield fell by 57% and 53%, respectively, but there was no reduction in months three and four. Over the entire experiment, the 0.50% A. taxiformis inclusion level dropped dry matter intake and milk yield of the cows by 7% and 6% (88 versus 83 pounds per day), respectively. Milkfat and true protein were not affected, but lactose concentration declined.

a large increase in iodine and bromide concentrations in milk. Then, there is the question of where all this seaweed is going to come from. It must come from aquaculture production because wild harvest of so much seaweed would certainly create an ecological problem. Although there are some successful startups, large-scale farming of A. taxiformis is far from certain or possible. Reliable statistics on current U.S. seaweed production are lacking, but according to some sources, the annual wild seaweed (all species) harvest is around 720 tons (dry weight) and aquaculture production, which is rapidly growing, is probably twice as much. If combined, domestic production of all seaweed will still only be about 0.6% to perhaps 1% of the 360,000 tons (dry weight) needed if all 9 million dairy cows in the U.S. were to be fed 0.50% seaweed. Many questions need to be answered before we can determine if seaweed is a viable option for methane mitigation. ■

The author is a professor of dairy nutrition at Penn State University.

Stability a challenge What we observed clearly suggested that the active compounds in A. taxiformis — such as the bromoforms — are unstable. Their concentration declines over time, even as the freeze-dried seaweed was refrigerated and stored in the dark. The breakdown of the halogenated compounds was confirmed in a parallel study where we saw a 4- to 5-fold drop in bromoform concentration in A. taxiformis over five months of storage. Thus, there is little doubt that A. taxiformis is a potent enteric methane mitigation tool. However, stability of the active compounds, at least in our experience, presents a significant practical challenge when it comes to normal livestock feeding practices.

More research is needed Apart from practicality of routine feeding of seaweed to dairy cattle (or any livestock), other questions need to be addressed before this practice can be recommended. At this point, there are no published long-term studies with dairy cows to allow evaluation of the effects of A. taxiformis on animal health and reproduction. The longest study so far was a 90-day experiment with beef cattle in Australia. Another important point with all feed additives that can be addressed only in long-term experiments is adaptation of the rumen ecosystem, which can cause a reduction in efficacy over time. Milk quality is another serious issue that may be a “dealbreaker” for A. taxiformis. In our second experiment, we saw

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August 2020 | Journal of Nutrient Management | 23

7/30/20 12:40 PM


NEW TOOLS OF THE TRADE Finding the correct machinery to meet the needs of our customers and preserve fields is an important part of a custom applicator’s job. by Jesse Dvorachek

s nutrient applicators, we are tasked with having the right piece of equipment for each of our customers. Since most customers have their own ideas for manure application, trying to find a happy medium becomes a challenge. Some farmers want their nutrients mixed across the whole soil profile. Others want the nutrients in zones as to disturb the soil profile as little as possible. The minimum disturbance method has been a hurdle because we need to meet the higher rates of application with all the water being collected on these farms. To do that, we need to have soil available to absorb the nutrients we are applying. It seems there is no one tool that fits all situations. In hilly conditions, one piece of equipment might not work because the nutrients will move down the zones and blow out at the bottom of the hill, potentially causing runoff. Some work better when there is a little moisture to soften the soil, making it easier to penetrate compaction. Some shank units, if used when conditions are wetter, will smear the trench and won’t allow absorption either, which could cause nitrogen striping. Some pieces won’t allow more than 15,000 gallons per acre because they don’t go deep enough. I’ve been to many field days across the country and have seen different machines work great in soil that makes every applicator look like a rock star. In real life, 95% of the time conditions are never perfect, and we need to work in

many different field situations. In my search for the perfect machine, I stumbled across a unit that works best for me, and it is versatile. I have a bar applicator that is 44 feet wide, and we added a row unit made by TK Ag Works in southern Wisconsin. The bar is wide, so I can use it for topdress applications like a dribble bar if I want. I can also easily change out coulters to go from less aggressive to more aggressive tillage. The unit has been built heavy for the rigors of custom application and is low maintenance with greaseless bearings. This machine is also capable of high rates. The coulter unit runs straight and has steel fins that are about 3 inches wide. When they enter the ground, they go in vertical, and as the coulter rotates, the fins leave the soil horizontal. This lifts the soil profile, pulling up compaction and leaving a nice, soft zone that is perfect to absorb liquid nutrients. The coulter has a serrated edge as well so there is no need for a lead coulter. This allows for residue to flow or be chopped up, it does not plug the row unit, and it reduces weight. By using this row unit we find the growers are back in their fields far sooner than when we disturb the entire soil profile. I’m not saying that we don’t have disks and rippers in our yard, but we are trying to move away from those if we can. As have many other nutrient applicators this year, we also added the John Deere HarvestLab 3000 with Constituent Sensing to this bar. We are able to apply nutrients based on many

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different criteria, like real-time values for total nitrogen, ammonia nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, and dry matter. In the past, we were given a rate for a field, and we put the same rate on the entire field. With all the restrictions on fields today, a field with a limitation will

In my search for the perfect machine, I stumbled across a unit that works best for me, and it is versatile. lump the whole field into that rate. If we can prove what is put where with this technology, we can apply a higher rate on parts of the field. The technology will speed up and slow down the tractor as you cross those zones in the field. This makes it possible to apply variable rate manure on the fly — and do it accurately. This year we are trying a lot of new tools and working with our growers to utilize this technology to its fullest potential. We want to make sure the storage pits are empty at the end of the year and that our customers are more profitable by utilizing the nutrients they produce on farm to the maximum extent possible. ■

The author owns Dvorachek Farm and Industry LLC, a custom manure application company in Brillion, Wis.

7/30/20 12:42 PM


DARITECH INTRODUCES MODULAR MANURE EVAPORATION SYSTEM BAZOOKA FARMSTAR EXPANDS THE TITAN SERIES TOOLBAR Bazooka Farmstar announced the release of Titan 2, an enhancement to its Titan Series Toolbar, a front-folding manure injection toolbar. On Titan 2, the position of the tower has been moved further forward, making it more closely align with the tires and enabling less resistance when turning in the ground at the end of a pass. Concurrently, the design of the toolbar body has been reinforced to provide an even stronger solution that can withstand rugged field conditions. The new design comes in lengths from 40 to 60 feet, increasing the number of Phantom Units that can be incorporated across the toolbar. Titan 2 has been equipped with larger flotation tires to counteract the steel that has been incorporated into the new design. The

center section tires have been upgraded to 700 series flotation tires, while the gauge wheels have been enhanced to 550 series flotation tires. Two notable features that come standard on Titan 2 are the Flux Manifold and 3-inch bumblebee drop-tube hose. The Flux Manifold is accompanied with a new lift assist for more convenient clean-out, and a block indicator light that allows operators to quickly detect an obstruction in the manifold. The 3-inch droptubes hold the smartest hose routing to date, minimizing sagging that would otherwise cause sand build-up and hose clogging. For more information, visit

DODA REVEALS NEW HOSE REELS Doda USA is proud to introduce their towable hose reels. With either a small or large diameter option, there is a reel to fit any size farming operation. The hose reels are built on a heavy duty galvanized frame with stainless steel safety guards. They are PTO powered, with a hydraulic tongue stand, removable hose dividers, and large flotation tires. Visit www. for more information.

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Following years of development, Daritech introduces the ZND system. Utilizing evaporation technology, you can now remove water from manure with 100% pathogen kill, utilizing no chemicals, filters, or membranes. The heart of this modular system is Daritech’s mechanical evaporation unit, with each module producing approximately 20,000 gallons of distillate per day. With the ZND system, you can now evaporate water from your manure at a fraction of the cost of a standard evaporation system. Any producer looking for a more economical and efficient manure management system for internal or commercial use will benefit from: Eighty to 90% of the manure fed to the ZND system will become distillate. The distillate is overwhelmingly water but also contains some ammonia from the TKN present in the manure. The ammonia can optionally be removed by aeration or a stripping tower. If recovery is desirable, a scrubbing tower can be added to produce ammonium sulfate. The remaining sludge nutrients are at a concentration of 10% to 20% of the initial starting volume. This can be more cost-effectively transported over greater distances than would have been required by the original non-concentrated manure. With the optional 2nd Stage, the evaporator sludge can be sent to a dryer to produce SuperO organic fertilizer crystals. For more information, visit

August 2020 | Journal of Nutrient Management | 25

7/30/20 12:44 PM

Journal of Nutrient Management . . .



Due to the COVID-19 health situation, many meetings and events are being rescheduled or canceled. Please visit the listed websites frequently for updates.

Manure Composting Workshop Hosted by University of Minnesota Extension and North Dakota State University Extension August 11, 2020 Virtual Details:


Future Enviroassets, LLC

R Braun Inc.


209 N. 4th Ave. St. Nazianz, WI 54232 920-773-2143

ENVIRONMENTAL SOLUTIONS Hall Associates 23 Evergreen Dr. Georgetown, DE 19947-9484 302-855-0723

Midwest Poultry Federation Convention August 12 and 13, 2020 Virtual Meeting Details:

Tomorrow Water

“Mindful Manure Management” Webinar Hosted by University of Nebraska Extension September 8, 2020 Virtual Details:

1225 N. Patt St. Anaheim, CA 92801 714-578-0676

209 N. 4th Ave. St. Nazianz, WI 54232

Trident Processes Inc.

R Braun Inc. 920-773-2143


COATINGS Industrial Solutions

World Beef Expo September 25 to 27, 2020 Wisconsin State Fair Park West Allis, Wis. Details: Pacific Northwest and Mountain West Nutrient Cycling, Soil Health, and Food Safety Conference October 27 to 29, 2020 Virtual Details: pmwncfsc


5115 S. Rolling Green Ave. Ste. 211 Sioux Falls, SD 57108 605-254-6059

Don’t see your company listed? Send your company name, key contact name, mailing address, telephone, email, and website to with Professional Directory in the subject line.


California Dairy Sustainability Summit November 5 and 6, 2020 Cal Expo Sacramento, Calif. Details: If you would like us to include your event on our list, please send details to

This photograph appeared alongside a magazine article printed in 1970. A Midwest dairy farm upgraded its manure stack storage area with a three-sided retaining wall and had plans to add a concrete floor for easier loading. Photo credit: Hoard’s Dairyman.

26 | Journal of Nutrient Management | August 2020

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7/31/20 10:58 AM



Apron Box Spreader

865-1,230 cu. ft. capacity trailer & truck models rear-discharge •

Rubber springs on tongue provide cushioned suspension to prevent shocks


Precisely manage and track applied nutrients with optional scale system

Undercarriage is commercial-grade and stout to withstand heavy loads

Guillotine endgate increases material flow management and metering


Rubber springs on tongue provide cushioned suspension to prevent shocks

Horizontal, vertical or spinner discharge options for consistent application rates

Visit our website to locate a Dealer near you! ®

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