March 7, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman
PRINCETON, Ky.

A manure management planner developed by two University of Kentucky College of Agriculture swine specialists assists farmers in utilizing the fertilizer value of their manure while not oversupplying nutrients that could potentially harm the environment.

The idea for the program came from discussions of proposed state and federal regulations several years ago. At that time it became clear that documentation was going to be important, said Richard Coffey, UK Extension swine specialist.

"Producers were going to have to do a better job taking soil tests, sampling manure and using that information to determine application rates that matched the nutrient needs of the crops they were going to plant. An application rate will need to based on something other than just needing to pump manure today," he said.

Coffey along with Gary Parker, UK Extension swine specialist, decided to develop the planner to help farmers document their practices.

"We wanted to get something into producers' hands to help them manage the resource they have in manure by fully using its fertilizer value while not overapplying where it could result in an environmental problem," Coffey said. "Our objective is not necessarily to get 100 percent of the producers using this computer program. Our objective, however, is to get 100 percent of the producers using some kind of program and this is one that we think is fairly easy for the producer to use."

There are several computer programs in existence, some more complicated than others, but none had all the components they wanted, he said. So they decided to develop one that can be used by swine, poultry and dairy producers.

Items they added to their program they had difficulty finding in others were individual field identity of differing crops and nutrient needs for those crops. Determining nutrient needs requires annual soil tests and also annual manure testing to know its nutrient content with the testing being conducted by the UK soils labs.

Another thing they wanted was a program that would compile a lot of documentation. This program will keep 10 years of data on soil phosphorus and potassium levels, and 10 years of data on manure analysis. It also can track such things as changes in phosphorus levels in the soil over time which will be one of the critical issues in the future.

Traditionally, manure has been applied based on nitrogen levels, but that can lead to over supplying the phosphorus needs. This program will allow farmers to base their applications on phosphorus or potassium should the rates in the soil be in high enough levels to trigger concerns, Coffey said. If the rate is based on phosphorus, the planner will calculate how much additional nitrogen, likely from a commercial fertilizer, is needed to meet the fertility demands of a crop.

The tracking mechanism is a check for the producers on whether they are doing a good job soil testing, manure sampling and land applying the manure, he said. The instruction manual includes publications by UK specialists on how to do proper soil and manure sampling.

Record keeping is vital if farmers are going to meet federal and state environmental regulations, Coffey said. This system can aid producers in verifying they are meeting best management practices. Record keeping, he noted, is something Extension has encouraged farmers to do for years to aid them in the farming operations.

The program is composed of 15 Microsoft Excel worksheets. Data needed by the farmer includes: field information and crop to be grown; soil tests results on phosphorus and potassium; nutrient recommendations for the crop or crops to be grown based on University of Kentucky soil testing results; manure nitrogen, phosphate, and potash analyses from the University of Kentucky soil testing lab and rates of manure applied.

The program is available through county Extension offices or by contacting Coffey at rcoffey@uky.edu or (270) 365-7541.

For farmers who may not be comfortable with using the Excel program, the Kentucky Pork Producers Association has offered to do the data input and keep 10-year data base for pork producers, said Mike Oveson, KPPA executive director.

Oveson said simple worksheets that farmers can fill out are being developed. To learn more about that service, contact KPPA at (270) 737-5665.

Contact: 

Richard Coffey, (270) 365-7541