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How to handle manure on wet fields

With a wet summer creating high soil moisture conditions in many fields and autumn’s unpredictable weather, now is a good time to review your manure management plan.

Assessing field conditions now will provide a head start for making changes and notifying county or Minnesota Pollution Control Agency offices. For the past three years, wet fall weather has narrowed the window for manure application after the harvest. To help prevent manure basins from overflowing or manure from running off saturated soils, MPCA has prepared a list of steps to help deal with those situations.

Key Points

• Review your manure management plan for wet and unpredictable weather.

• The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency provides a list of steps you can take.

• Good communication is vital between producers, applicators, county and state.


Here are some main points:

• When wet weather delays the harvest, producers and land-application services must work together and be flexible. Good communication is important. In all cases, producers and manure managers should contact their state or county feedlot program representative, and use all possible measures to mitigate the environmental impact of liquid manure storage and land-application during wet conditions. In most cases, solid manure can be temporarily stockpiled.

• Pump manure storage basins at least partially to avoid any overflow before winter, and land-apply the remaining manure in spring.

• Look around the area for other available fields from neighboring crop farmers or other approved manure storage space.

• For better access to wet fields, fill tankers to less than capacity.

• Reduce the impact of manure applied to the surface of wet or frozen soil. Avoid steeper slopes. Seek fields or parts of fields with less than 6% slope for solid manure or 2% for liquid manure, or use fields that have more than 30% residue.

• Stay 300 feet away from sensitive features, such as waters and tile intakes.

• Perform tillage along contours to create furrows to capture any potential runoff.

• Avoid flood or floodway zones.

• Keep application rate low enough to avoid runoff or ponding during application.

• Check with your county regarding local ordinances.

• Report any discharges from land application or liquid manure storage area overflows to the state duty officer at 800-422-0798. Take immediate action to reduce the environmental impact by creating temporary berms to stop discharge, temporarily plugging culverts and tile intakes to prevent manure inflow, or soaking up liquid with absorbent material such as hay, straw or wood shavings.

• Do not construct or modify your basin without approval from the MPCA or county feedlot officer.

• Do not store manure in unpermitted basins.

Remember that when weather gets cold, feedlots with a National Pollutant Discharge Eliminations System permit that plan to land-apply liquid manure to frozen soil must notify their county or state feedlot program representative. This notice should include an aerial photo clearly outlining the location of the proposed land application. It is also important to contact your county regarding any local ordinances.

For more information, contact your MPCA regional office (phone numbers are on the first page of the website), or county feedlot officer at www.pca.state.
mn.us/hot/feedlots.html#contacts.
You can call MPCA toll-free: 800-657-3864.

The fact sheet, “Managing Manure and Land Application during Adverse Weather Conditions,” is available at MPCA regional offices and is posted on the feedlot program Web page at: www.pca.state.mn.us/hot/feedlot-management.html.

This article published in the October, 2010 edition of THE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.