John Lory, an environmental nutrient management specialist for the University of Missouri Commercial Agriculture Program, is finding his services much in demand these days. "It's a time of opportunity for manure suppliers," Lory says. "People are looking closer at manure management practices."
The agronomist sees two trends in Missouri's agriculture industry. "Farmers who have manure on their farm are doing a better job of integrating that manure into their fertilization plan, so they are making better use of manure nutrients," he says. "And we are seeing more farmers who haven't traditionally used manure on their crops looking for sources of organic fertilizer to replace or extend their high-cost commercial fertilizer."
In order for manure to be an effective fertilizer when applied to crop fields or pastures, Lory advises farmers to follow four steps:
1) Conduct a nutrient analysis of the manure product.
2) Make a calculation of its nutrient availability and then calculate an application rate. "For phosphorus and potassium, we consider all the nutrients in manure 100% available," Lory says. "So, if you need 100 lb. of P fertilizer and there's 100 lb. of P in your manure, you can use that to meet your fertilizer needs. Nitrogen is trickier, as some of the organic nitrogen in manure is not 100% available."
3) Calibrate your manure spreader or tanker so you are applying a uniform rate of manure to your crop or pasture field.
4) Use a good spread pattern to apply the manure evenly across the field.
"If you do all four of these steps, manure can be an effective fertilizer, equal to most commercial fertilizers," Lory says.
For helpful resources, visit nmplanner.missouri.edu.