Tips on managing manure in winter

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By AMANDA CRAWFORD

Cold weather is quickly approaching and with it brings manure management concerns. Even though the best way to protect water quality is to avoid winter manure application, the fact remains that some farmers are faced with scenarios where it may be required.

Even for farmers who follow winter application guidelines, pollution can still occur. In order to reduce these risks, knowledge is power. Winter manure application is not recommended but if you are faced with a situation that requires winter manure application make sure to review the following:

• Do I have adequate storage for the winter months? (December through March).

• Can I add storage capacity or manage application differently? For example, it may be possible to adjust crop rotations to open up application sites earlier in the fall. Those who must apply manure in the winter might reserve fields farthest from waterways for winter application. Staking out application areas ahead of time could also make it easier to meet application criteria.

• Prioritize fields for winter time manure applications. Determine how many acres are needed for winter manure application. Be sure to account for field slope and fields adjacent to surface waters.

• Seeding a cover crop on fields that may receive an application of manure over the winter can assist in better absorption and reduced runoff. Be aware of soil and weather conditions.

• It is important to keep good records of field applications. Recording data such as field number, date, weather conditions, application rate, etc. is another important planning tool.

• Communication is key in the planning process. After field prioritizations are reviewed, be sure that all those involved with the manure application are aware of the information included in planning and preparation.

• Even the best plans can experience unforeseen circumstances. It is imperative to have an emergency plan in place in the event of manure release to surface waters. While many states have prohibited manure application on frozen or snow-covered ground, it’s still permitted under cautious management in Ohio.

In order to maintain this option, it is important to protect water quality through minimizing winter application and following standards when it cannot be avoided.

Stark SWCD is available to provide suggestions and guidance through the process. Contact Stark SWCD for more information regarding application criteria and other manure management information.

(Amanda Crawford is a district administrator with the Stark County Soil and Water Conservation District. She can be reached at amanda.crawford@starkswcd.org.)

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