What Is Manure Worth To Soil?

(Article from The Nebraska Farmer)

It doesn’t matter what size of animal feeding operation, manure can be viewed as a product of value.

Rick Koelsch, Nebraska Extension biological systems engineer, says that manure presents a mixed bag of positive effects and challenges. In a recent USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service webinar, Koelsch talked about finding a balance to efficiently use manure resources.

“I don’t even like to use the term ‘waste.’ Manure is not waste, but is a resource,” Koelsch said. “Historically, we have recognized how valuable manure is. It was shipped from country to country on sailing ships of old because of its soil building capability.”

“Our agricultural enterprises are biological systems,” Koelsch added. “For biological systems to function well, they must recycle carbon and nutrients, the first key to stewardship.”

No matter if an animal feeding operation is quite small or larger, with a larger land base, there needs to be a focus on recycling nutrients, he said.

“Increasingly, AFO and crop production systems are viewed separately,” Koelsch said. “Feed, in this case, becomes a big input. For AFOs purchasing feeds, we still need to recycle nutrients, so we look at exporting manure, and how efficiently we recycle manure nutrients through our neighboring crop farms.”

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