The Scoop on … Manure Series | March 20, 2021
It has long been argued that the value of manure, in providing micro-nutrients and organic matter to the soil, is priceless.
Manure is more than the sum of its N-P-K parts, isn’t it? It has micro-nutrients and organic matter that are, essentially, priceless. “Fertilizer is great, but it will only get you so far,” says Greg Boon, an independent agronomist with AgriSolve. He works with farmers as both a Nutrient Management Planner and a Certified Crop Advisor, to make the most of their manure sources.
“If I’ve got two fields with similar soil test levels, one built without manure and one with it, I’ll often see the manure-built field have the higher yield and higher organic matter levels to withstand drought,” he observes.
Greg was one of three local panelists on The Scoop on Poultry Manure on February 5th, alongside Mark Hermann (Whistlebare Poultry Farm) and Adrian Guntensperger (Guntensperger Farm Services).
Over 200 Ontario farmers attended online workshops on the value of manure, which took place in early February. Part of the ‘Timing Matters’ initiative, the 5-part series involved various commodity organizations, including OSCIA Program Director Angela Straathof, who provided an update on the first- year successes of the ONFARM project.
The series was hosted by OPACA and focused on dairy, beef, poultry, hog and municipal organics. Each event’s panel included a farmer, an agronomist, and a manure applicator. The workshops included plenty of audience engagement, as farmers got more comfortable with the online platform.
Of course, no workshop on manure is complete without Christine Brown, OMAFRA’s Sustainability Specialist Field Crops. She demonstrated AgriSuite, a group of calculators that are available online at agrisuite.omafra.gov.on.ca for farmers to use.
AgriSuite is decades of Ontario-based research in the palm of your hand. Up to this point, it has been used primarily by consultants, but it is now a web- based platform that works on all smart phones as well. Farmers can input their soil tests, crop rotation, yields and manure analysis into the calculator to determine the best rate, method of application and timing to make the most of manure and fertilizer. The calculator has the N-P-K values built right in, so users can compare various scenarios to see how to make the most from their manure.
“Still, the greatest value of manure is on fields with the lowest soil tests,” says Andy de Vries, a farmer, agronomist and partner with CropQuest. “When a farmer’s soil tests get to a certain point, it just makes more economic sense to trade it or sell it to a neighbour,” says de Vries, who buys in all his manure from his neighbours.
There were a few key take-aways from the online discussions: 1) It makes most sense to apply manure up to a field’s phosphorus requirements, sell the rest and amend the N and K needs with commercial fertilizer, 2) The most value is retained from getting manure into the soil and as close to the growing season as possible, or into a growing crop or cover crop, and 3) It is best to avoid wet field conditions and reduce tire pressure when applying manure.
“You can undo all the benefits of manure by applying it at the wrong time,” says Cliff Horst, of Country Custom Ag, a custom farming and manure application business near Shakespeare. “If you don’t have the time or equipment to do a good job, hire a contractor,” he adds.
Horst spoke at The Scoop on Hog Manure workshop and is also an OPACA board member. OPACA was formed in 2017 to connect and represent the growing number of agri-contractors in Ontario and to promote best practices in the industry.