Winter weather complicates manure application
Protecting water quality would be a lot easier if farmers never needed to apply manure when fields are frozen or covered with snow. But the fact is, some farmers don't have enough storage capacity to get through the winter. Sometimes, even farmers with storage facilities need to apply manure in the winter because wet fall weather or other problems delayed application.
Unfortunately, uncooperative winter weather can lead to pollution, even for farmers who follow winter manure application guidelines. Last winter, for example, a quick thaw led to a rash of pollution complaints in early March. Manure applied earlier in the winter had remained frozen on fields for weeks or even months, but after the thaw surface flow carried it into streams.
To guard against such problems, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has revised the standard for application of manure on frozen and snow-covered soils. The new standard will significantly reduce the risk of pollution problems, but winter application can still be risky.
The new standard includes six criteria and all six must be followed to comply with the standard. The requirements include a 200-foot setback from waterways and streams, at least 90 percent surface residue cover, and specific application rate limits depending on manure moisture content. Manure should not be applied on more than 20 contiguous acres and additional criteria apply for fields with slopes greater than six percent.
Although some other states have prohibited manure application to frozen or snow-covered ground, it's still permitted under very careful management in Ohio. To protect this option, farmers need to guard water quality by minimizing winter application and by following the standard when winter application is unavoidable. ______________ SWCD can offer suggestions to help you through the process.
For some farmers, adding storage capacity would help. Others might need to manage application more carefully. For example, farmers might 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.
For more information about the new application criteria, or other manure management issues, contact _________________ SWCD at phone number.