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Manure Application Guide for Fall

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
October 1, 2014        
Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties


Manure Application Guide for Fall
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (10/01/14)— It seems we’ve been thinking about all things fall lately.  From harvesting crops to pasture prep to animal care, there’s always something to be done when the leaves start changing.  Let’s add something else to the list--manure.  Any livestock producer can tell you what an asset manure is when it comes to crop production. 

Manure can benefit an operation's soil nutrient system and overall crop production. Crop yields are increased with manure usage. Soil nutrient levels are boosted, including micronutrients. And manure provides valuable organic matter to soil that improves soil tilth, aids in the retention of water and nutrients, and promotes growth of beneficial micro-organisms.  However, Livestock producers must be extremely aware of potential environmental risks from manure's nitrogen or phosphorus.  Jose Hernandez with University of Minnesota Extension offers some insight on manure timing guides for fall.

Fall applications of manure, either injected or broadcast, allow more time for the organic portions of the manure to break down before the plant needs the nutrients as compared to spring application. In contrast, fall applications also provide more time for potential loss of N. Hernandaz says, “The University of Minnesota recommends that if fall application is necessary, it should be done in late fall when soil temperatures are below 50 degrees. Low soil temperatures prevent the nitrogen in the manure to be available for leaching losses. If manure applied to soils when soil temperatures are above 50 degrees F, the inorganic nitrogen converts rapidly to nitrate-nitrogen, which is a very mobile form of nitrogen and increases the risk of nitrogen leaching into the ground waters.” 

Some livestock producers may also find that winter application of manure is inevitable.  However, the practice is generally discouraged.  Hernandez says, “First, in the winter, incorporation of the manure into the soil is not possible; therefore, most of the available, inorganic nitrogen will be lost. Second, the manure is lying on the soil surface, susceptible to movement by runoff into waterways, ditches, and streams. If manure must be spread in the winter, select level land and apply only conservative rates of manure to minimize nutrient concentrations susceptible for movement. In addition, avoid applying manure where tillage was done going up and down the slope and avoid applying during times of snowmelt. With good management, winter-applied manure will provide the same phosphorus and potassium and about a third of the available nitrogen amounts as fall- or spring-applied manure.”

For additional manure handling questions, call Emily Wilmes at the Stearns County Extension Office at 320-255-6169.


Emily Wilmes
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems - Livestock
(320) 255-6169
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