01Nov/17
Photo of rainfall simulation study

Setbacks Reduce the Concentration of Manure Constituents in Runoff

What setback distance is required to reduce the concentration of manure constituents in runoff to background values? John E. Gilley, Aaron J. Sindelar, and Bryan L. Woodbury, researchers with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, examined the effects of setback distance on concentrations of selected constituents in runoff following land application of beef cattle manure to a site in Southeast Nebraska (Figure 1).  Continue reading

03Oct/17
photo of sand recovery system in Iowa

Can application of sand laden manure impact soil texture?

What does soil texture have to do with manure? Sand bedding has become a popular choice at many dairies due to the cow comfort and health benefits it offers. A question raised at manure application time is how does sand in the manure impact the health of my soils? While using sand laden manure as a fertilizer source does add sand to the soil, the change is small and would take about 100 years for a silt loam soil to see a change in soil texture. Continue reading

01Sep/17

The Soil Health Institute and the Water-Soil Health Connection

The Soil Health Institute (SHI) was created in 2015 to “Safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of soil through scientific research and advancement.” As the independent, non-profit organization charged with coordinating and supporting soil stewardship and advancing soil health, the SHI is focused on fundamental, translational, and applied research and ensuring its adoption. Enhancing soil health allows us to improve water quality, increase drought resilience, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve farm economies, provide pollinator habitat, and better positions us to feed the nine billion people expected by 2050. Continue reading

01Aug/17
A recently added aggregate of livestock manure (left) versus a heavy soil aggregate of poor structure on the right.

Soil Organic Matter and Its Benefits

Soils of Northern Great Plains are relatively young (11000 to 14000 years old) and have some of the highest organic matter levels (4 to 7%) of all mineral soils in the United States (Overstreet and DeJong-Huges, 2009). However, continuous cropping, poor management practices and loss of topsoil have adversely affected the soil organic matter levels. Continue reading

03Jul/17
soil with earth worm

Manure Impact on Soil Aggregation

If manure increases formation of larger (macro) and more stable soil aggregates, several benefits may result for fields fertilized by manure compared to commercial fertilizer including:

  • Reduced runoff and soil erosion;
  • Increased water infiltration into the soil possibly leading to greater drought tolerance; and
  • Partial offsetting of higher soil P levels resulting from manure application and limiting P loss to local surface water.

Continue reading

01May/17

Manure and Soil Health Presentations Bring Experts, Give Voice to Wondering Minds

Farmers and ranchers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of soil quality/health to the productivity and sustainability of their agricultural system. Research and field observations have demonstrated that carefully managed manure applications can contribute to improved soil quality with limited environmental and social risks. However, a comprehensive assemblage of outputs and conclusions from research studies, field trials, soil labs databases, and other sources has never been developed. Continue reading

19Apr/17

Should farmers strive for more organic matter mineralization or stabilization?

Tunsisa Hurisso and Steve Culman, School of Environment and Natural Resources, Ohio State University

In short, the answer is usually both.

Soil organic matter is a mixture consisting of various compounds (e.g. simple sugars, cellulose, proteins, etc.) derived primarily from plants and microbes. It represents 1-6% by mass of agricultural soils, but plays a disproportionate role in soil function. Organic matter in soils acts like a sponge, holding nutrients (sequestration or stabilization) that become available to plants when organic matter is broken down (mineralization) by the collective action of the soil food web (mainly by bacteria and fungi). In addition to nutrients, organic matter also enhances the soil’s water holding capacity, making farmlands more resilient to periods of drought. In contrast, when organic matter is depleted due to repeated plowing and/or removal of crop residues from the field, the ability of a soil to hold water and nutrients will be greatly diminished. Therefore, growers should strive for both organic matter stabilization and mineralization processes to ensure short-term crop productivity and to build long-term soil resilience.

Continue reading

10Apr/17
fertilizer treatments

Utilizing composted beef feedlot manure in cropping systems

In 1987, a long-term cropping systems study started at the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center.  Three sets of 4-year crop rotations are replicated three times each year. The ninth cycle ended in 2016.  This article will discuss some of the effects of using composted beef manure on soil properties and selected crop yields Continue reading

27Feb/17

University Research Based Soil Health Resources No One Should be Without

Extension educators, crop consultants, and farmers working to improve soil health now have practical in the office or in the field resources. The new Iowa Soil Health Management Manual, Field Guide and a Soil Health Assessment Card are available at no cost.

The Iowa Soil Health Management Manual, Iowa Soil Health Field Guide, and Iowa Soil Health Assessment Card were recently published to increase understanding of soil health concept and their awareness of best management practices to protect soil health. These three publications are a collaborative effort between Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and can now be ordered or downloaded for free at the Extension Store.

Continue reading