The author owns Dvorachek Farm and Industry LLC, a custom manure application company in Brillion, Wis.Wow! Thats about all I can say about this fall manure application season. It is truly the tale of two different worlds.
The last two seasons, at least for us in northeast Wisconsin, have been the most challenging in recent history. Then we moved into 2020 with a beautiful planting season and a nice summer to apply manure to hay ground and other cover crops, which helped get ahead on fall application. I’m sure not all have been as lucky as we have been, but this year I’m gonna take it, because last year almost broke us.
Now we are being tested with a different set of challenges. It has been relatively dry through August and harvest, and that has presented a problem we didn’t have the last two years. Instead of dealing with soft, moist soils and the issues that come with that, this fall so far we have found the ground is very hard, which can cause other problems.
Compacted soils wear disks, bearings, and chisel points much quicker than normal, which creates more maintenance work to repair the damage. Also, hard, dry ground can cause issues with manure getting to tile lines and groundwater more quickly. How, you might ask? The answer is worm channels.
If you have healthy soil that is alive with organic matter and worms, those little critters create channels in your soil profile. When soil is dry and cracked, the manure can find those channels and move quickly to the groundwater, tile lines, and then to waterways. How can we combat this?
The best and most common way is pretillage. I know, it’s another pass across the field when the applicator is supposed to be incorporating the manure for you. But being able to pretill a couple inches below the desired application site is going to save everyone a lot of headaches in the long run.
At lower rates of nutrients being applied, one will be able to get by with a light tillage pass with a field cultivator or vertical tillage. With higher rates of application, one will have to pull out a heavier disk or chisel plow. The latter is not ideal as it brings up rocks and breaks up the soil profile, but in some years it may be needed to make sure we are protecting our environment.
Rules and regulations seem to be changing all the time, and the best we can do is adjust and do what is right for the environment As nutrient applicators, we are being asked to take on a lot of responsibility for the farmers, and they trust us with a valuable resource. That is why it’s very important we become professional nutrient applicators.
We can still have fun, but following the rules set out for us, even though we may not always agree with them, is very important. As professionals, we can help protect the dairy, hog, chicken, and beef industries. The nutrient by-product from the farms is the biggest hot button in the agricultural industry today, and it likely will remain that way going into the future.
This article appeared in the November 2020 issue of Journal of Nutrient Management on page 26.
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