MPCA emphasizes proper manure management during a wet fall application season

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After crops are harvested, Minnesota livestock producers will be applying billions of gallons or pounds of stored manure to cropland. Wet weather is complicating the harvest, but it also plays a role in proper manure management.

To get the most value from manure as fertilizer and to avoid manure runoff that could pollute nearby lakes and streams, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture are reminding farmers to observe application setbacks from bodies of water and use proper manure-application rates. Detailed guidance is available on the MPCA web site. Avoid applying manure just prior to predicted rainfall, and reduce your application rates if field and weather conditions are not ideal. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast tool can help determine the best time to apply manure to a field. If the Runoff Risk forecast is moderate or severe, applicators should reevaluate the locations or dates for applying manure.

Farmers who apply manure during winter should apply to fields that are level, distant from sensitive features, and have crop residue. If frozen soil prevents manure from being incorporated, a 300-foot setback from sensitive water and land features is required. Avoid spreading when furrows contain ice or snow.  Large feedlots with NPDDES permits are prohibited from applying liquid manure to frozen or snow-covered ground after November 30, except for emergency applications. Notify the State Duty Officer (800-422-0798) and the MPCA within 24 hours of an emergency application.

The recent above-average rainfall may also affect manure storage. Livestock producers using basins should keep an eye on levels and prevent overflows. Contact your county feedlot officer or MPCA feedlot staff if levels have or will exceed one foot from the top of the basin.

Additional tips for successful fall manure application:

  • Check manure hauling equipment for broken hoses, loose connections, and leaking valves and gaskets.
  • Avoid damage to manure storage equipment; agitate and pump only at designated areas.
  • “Sensitive features” requiring setbacks include lakes, rivers, intermittent and perennial streams, sinkholes, drainage ditches with side inlets or without berms, and open tile inlets. Manure applied within 300 feet of a sensitive feature must be incorporated within 24 hours and before rainfall.
  • Follow University of Minnesota-Extension Service agronomic recommendations for calculating manure rates and nutrient needs.
  • Wait to apply manure on coarse-textured soils until soil temperature drops below 50 degrees. Using a nitrogen inhibitor can reduce nitrogen losses on early applications.
  • Be prepared for mishaps. If a spill or equipment failure occurs:
    • Be sure all personnel are safe.
    • Stop the spill: Close a valve, drive a vehicle onto a drag line hose, or turn off a pump.
    • Use tillage to slow spill movement toward sensitive features in fields, build dirt berms, or use bales to absorb the spill.
    • Plug culverts and open tile intakes.
    • Call for help, such as a septic tank pump truck to recover the spill.
    • Review your emergency response plan.
    • Call the Minnesota Duty Officer (800-627-3529).