Spring Manure Applications Require Caution

Manure tanker. ( Farm Journal, Inc. )

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With warmer, spring-like weather on the horizon, a young dairyman’s fancy naturally turns toward…manure application and getting those storage structures cleaned out ahead of planting.

But jumping the gun and applying manure to snow-covered, frozen or saturated soils increases the risk of nutrient loss, says Robert Meinen, a senior Extension associate with Pennsylvania State University.

“Frozen, snow-covered and saturated soil conditions hinder infiltration,” he says. “Spring rain events can carry both soluble and solid portions of the manure from the field.

“If you must apply manure before conditions are ideal, you should go to fields specifically listed on your nutrient or manure management plan to receive manure during the current season,” he says.

Go to the least risky fields first. These include fields with shallow slopes, fields with perennial crops such as alfalfa or grass hay, fields with cover crops or crop residues and fields distant to water.

Also pay attention to weather forecasts to avoid snow or rain that could increase runoff, he says.

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