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November 9, 2009
A Penton Media, Inc Publication


  • Avoid Manure Pit Explosions
  • Kansas State Develops Phosphorus Recovery System
  • Tips for Manure Application During a Wet Year
  • Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule Finalized
  • Drainage Research Forum Coming Nov. 10
  • Integrated Crop Management Conference Offered
  • Air Quality Regulations Webcast Provides Update
  • EPA Seeks Public Input on National Enforcement Priorities




      Avoid Manure Pit Explosions
    Manure pit-related explosions or flash fires have occurred recently in both Minnesota and Iowa livestock buildings. Luckily, the explosions, to date, have mainly resulted in building damage, with few animal losses and no personal injuries or fatalities reported.

    Agricultural engineers, animal scientists and an industry consultant recently developed recommendations to help producers understand and deal with the potential danger.

    A number of gases are released when liquid manure is agitated to suspend solids and create a slurry that can be pumped and applied to cropland. Some of these gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, are hazardous to people and animals.

    The ignition danger mainly comes when methane is released. Because of its flammable nature, an explosion will likely occur if the methane concentration in the barn/pit reaches its explosion threshold of 4-5% (40,000 to 50,000 ppm) and there is an ignition source, such as a pilot light on a heater.

    Industry specialists offered these suggestions to help prevent a potential explosion:

    1. Provide continuous ventilation to prevent a gas buildup; increase ventilation during agitation to quickly dissipate released gases. Sufficient ventilation or exchange of air in the barn is essential to keep the concentration of methane below the explosive threshold. An estimate of what is sufficient air exchange in a barn while agitating and pumping a manure pit is at least two to three times the minimum ventilation rate (or around 10 air changes per hour) for the barn. If the pit is full or nearly full, do not rely only on pit fans to supply this airflow rate, since these fans may be severely restricted. Because methane is lighter than air, it may be better to use only wall fans to supply this air exchange while agitating/pumping the barn’s manure pit. Make sure normal ventilation inlets are open and operating properly to ensure good air distribution in the barn. This is also important in preventing animal deaths during agitation and pumping. Agitate and pump pits when barns are empty whenever possible.

    2. Turn off heater pilot lights and non-ventilation electrical systems, such as the feeding system, that might produce an ignition spark. Not providing supplemental heat in the barn may be problematic when the barn is occupied by small animals or when the barn is empty. This may restrict pumping to warmer days.

    3. When pumping pits that are close to being full, pump without agitation until manure is about 2 ft. below the slats. This will allow pit fans to perform properly during agitation and provide more dilution space for methane and other gases that are released.

    4. Foaming of manure pits is a growing and significant concern that may be related to the explosion incidents. Some of the recent cases have reported “foaming” or extensive bubbling on the manure surface prior to the explosions. Some reports noted that several feet of foam can develop in a matter of days. Some manure pits will foam while others do not. Currently there is no consistent solution to controlling this foaming and experts do not understand the contributing factors, such as diet, manure pH and other causes. More relevant information and preliminary field measurements are being collected in producers’ barns to see what techniques and products are effective at reducing foam levels.
    For additional information on the dangers of gas-related pit explosions, go to the following websites:
    University of Minnesota Extension’s swine website:
    Iowa State University press release
    Minnesota Pork Board website:

    Now’s the Time to incorporate a Slurrystore System into your nutrient management program. Slurrystore is compatible for any system whether your goal is long term storage, nutrient retention, green containment, digesters or manure processing. Plus Slurrystore Systems include the added feature of agitation to help ensure nutrient consistency. Click here or contact your local Authorized Slurrystore Dealer for more information.

      Kansas State Develops Phosphorus Recovery System
    The bioprocessing team at Kansas State University's Advanced Manufacturing Institute (AMI) in collaboration with the Kansas Environmental Management Associates has developed a new patented process for recovering excess phosphorus from feedlot waste streams to create a slow-release granular fertilizer. The new system can reduce phosphorus levels between 40 and 60%, depending on the nutrient management requirements of a particular feeding operation.

    “Over the past few years, the Environmental Protection Agency has been working on legislation to limit the level of phosphorus in crop field runoff,” says Gina Becker, AMI bioprocessing team leader. “One of their main concerns is the use of wastewater from concentrated feeding operations. As a result of legislation, people in the industry across the nation are looking for economical ways to reduce phosphorus levels prior to applying it to fields.”

    The bioprocessing team initially developed the phosphorus recovery process on a small-scale model in the laboratory. A pilot-scale model followed and was tested on a Kansas State cattle feedlot lagoon. The next step involved moving to a fully automated, farm-scale testing process at Supreme Cattle Feeders in Liberal, KS.

    According to Kylo Heller, director of development at Kansas Environmental Management Associates, The system solves two problems: it helps feedlots cost-effectively remove phosphorus and meet Environmental Protection Agency regulations, and the granules allow for more efficient phosphorus distribution from high concentration areas to low concentration areas. “Feedlots can benefit from this process because it allows them to be competitive in an industry where regulatory compliance costs are increasingly burdensome and it concentrates the phosphorus so that it is easier to transport further distances,” Heller explains.

    Learn more about the new system online at

      Tips for Manure Application During a Wet Year
    For many pork producers, manure application follows closely on the heels of the corn and soybean harvest. This year may prove more challenging than most, due to the wet weather and excessive soil moisture, according to Paul Walker, Illinois State University animal science professor. He says a delayed grain harvest means there may be little opportunity to land apply manure before soils freeze in some parts of the country. “Even in those cases where farmers have been able to harvest corn and soybeans, wet soils increase the chances of nutrient leaching and runoff during or after manure application,” he states. Walker provides seven management practices to help prepare for fall manure application:

    1. Review nutrient management plans. To prevent leaching and/or runoff resulting from manure application, lower manure application rates may be warranted. Nutrient leaching may increase when injecting liquid manure and solids runoff may increase when spreading solid manure during episodes of high rainfall. Consequently, additional land may be required for manure application this fall. Using fields with flatter slopes and lower phosphorous index scores may be a good idea. Plan ahead. Manure application may have to wait until emergency application guidelines for frozen ground are applicable. Review of your current nutrient management plan and noted application methods, application rates and fields of choice may require revising for this year. Making updates now may save time, energy and costs later.

    2. Develop an emergency application plan. The incidence of manure spills increases when the weather is harsh. “Handling manure is bad enough on a sunny, 80-degree day. Near-freezing temperatures, wet weather and muddy conditions increase the chances for something to go wrong,” Walker says. Train employees in manure spill response. Emphasize who to contact, safety issues and what to do when emergencies occur.

    3. Take manure samples. If nutrient overload, runoff and/or leachate are a potential problem, as it is this year, it is especially important to know the nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) concentration of the manure. High nutrient loads mean more land area required for application. In a wet year, balancing nutrient application with potential for runoff is more important than normal to prevent environmental contamination. Sampling ahead of land application helps plan which fields can be used.
      Sampling during land application or manure agitation may provide more accurate nutrient results for planning future application rates but it will not help plan application rates for this fall. It is important to build a history of nutrient analyses over time for manure sampling to help manage the nutrients in manure for crop production over the years.

      Correct sampling technique is most important. A sample that is not representative of the manure volume is of little value. Slurry sampling is best accomplished using a probe of sufficient length to reach to the bottom of the storage tank. Sampling should only take place immediately following agitation and multiple samples from several locations in the pit should be collected and pooled, especially if only one sample will be sent to a laboratory for analysis. For solid manure, several grab samples from several locations in a manure pile both inside and outside of the stack should be collected and pooled.

    4. Take soil samples. Soil samples should be taken prior to manure application. If a field has not been sampled recently, then one sample for every 2.5 acres is best. Generally one sample collected for every 10 acres is adequate for fields that are routinely sampled, Walker says.

    5. Calibrate application equipment. “Calibrating manure application equipment takes a little time, but in the long run it will help meet the correct application rate and make better use of manure nutrients,” according to Walker.

      To determine how much solid manure a manure spreader applies, Walker suggests laying out a 56-sq. in. sheet of plastic. Spread manure across the plastic sheet at the desired rate of travel and spreader settings. The net weight in pounds collected on the plastic sheet is equivalent to the tons-per-acre application rate. Remember, N, P and K are calculated based on the dry matter weight of the manure – not the wet weight basis -- unless the laboratory has been given directions otherwise.

    6. Timing of application. Manure application on dry soil is the best option. Try to apply at least 24 hours before a substantial rainfall to help prevent runoff. Injection of slurry is a necessity, but it requires dryer soil conditions. Surface application of solid manure should be followed by some kind of primary tillage, but even disking in freshly applied manure is more desirable than no tillage at all. Applying manure to snow-covered or frozen ground may not be allowed except under emergency conditions and, Walker says, this looks like it could be one of those years in some states.

    7. Consider the neighbors. “Yes, manure does have odor. In blunt terms, it just smells bad. That is not perception. It is reality. Therefore, inform your neighbors. Let them know about manure application plans. If possible, tell them how long it might take, how you plan to apply the manure, and how long they might expect to smell the manure. Inquire about any outdoor events in the neighborhood, such as weddings, cookouts, etc. and try to avoid those times for application. This will be extremely difficult this fall because we seem to have such small windows of opportunity to land apply manure. Most neighbors will understand. Some won’t, but at least make an effort. It may yield future dividends,” Walker concludes.

    Are you getting optimum value from your ag nutrients? Ensure an even nutrient blend and consistency with every load using a Slurrystore® and its center agitation system. There’s no better choice for long term ag nutrient storage. Now’s the Time for Slurrystore. Click here or contact your local Authorized Slurrystore Dealer for more information.

      Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule Finalized
    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will begin requiring the collection of greenhouse gas (GHG) data from large emitters on Jan. 1, 2010, under a new reporting system. The new system will cover approximately 85% of the nation's GHG emissions and will apply to roughly 10,000 facilities, according to the eXtension website.

    One of the significant changes from the proposed rule is the size of facilities required to report emissions. EPA will require annual reporting if the average annual inventory is:
    • Beef cattle: 29,300 head
    • Dairy cattle: 3,200 head
    • Swine: 34,100 head
    • Poultry: 723,600 layers; 38,160,000 broilers; and 7,710,000 turkeys.
    The EPA defined many of the inputs to GHG calculations, such as nitrogen excretion rates, maximum methane potential, and nitrous oxide emissions.

    The first report will cover emissions for 2010, and will be due March 31, 2011. The goal of the new reporting system is to provide a better understanding of where GHGs come from and to guide development of policies to reduce emissions. Agriculture is estimated to generate 7% of GHGs in the United States.

    The final regulations on the new reporting system and reporting requirements can be accessed by going to

      Drainage Research Forum Coming Nov. 10
    Registration will be accepted at the door for the Iowa-Minnesota Drainage Research Forum to be held at Iowa State University (ISU) in Ames, IA on Nov. 10. Those interested in agricultural drainage research issues and projects in the Upper Midwest are invited to attend.

    The program will feature results and updates on drainage research and implementation projects by university and agency research leaders from Iowa and Minnesota. Topics to be covered include drainage water management and water quality, bioreactor research for nitrate reduction, and reports on drainage water management performance in Iowa, Indiana and Minnesota.

    Registration is at 8 a.m. and the program runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will be held at the Scheman Building on the ISU campus and is jointly sponsored by Iowa State University and the University of Minnesota. Registration costs $65. Additional information, a detailed agenda and online registration are available at

      Integrated Crop Management Conference Offered
    The Iowa State University Integrated Crop Management Conference will be held Dec. 2 - 3 on the Iowa State University (ISU) campus. Conference attendees can choose from 34 workshops that offer the latest information on crop production and crop protection technology in Iowa and surrounding states. Workshops are offered by ISU staff and invited speakers from around the Midwest.

    Each year ISU specialists invite colleagues in their field to share their research activities with conference attendees, providing expertise from across the region and country, note the program’s organizers.
    Nutrient management workshops during the conference include:
    1. Dealing with sulfur deficiency in Iowa corn production -John Sawyer, Agronomy, ISU. Sulfur deficiency in Iowa cropping systems is a new production challenge. Past research in Iowa had not shown sulfur fertilization need until recent research documented large yield increase connected to sulfur application in northeast Iowa alfalfa fields. The session will cover current sulfur research results and fertilization suggestions for Iowa corn production.

    2. Do new corn hybrids, yield level and soil sampling time influence potassium fertilizer recommendations? Antonio Mallarino, Agronomy, ISU. This presentation will focus on results of new potassium management research. Results will be presented from two projects that looked into possible effects of new corn hybrids, higher yield levels and different soil sampling timing on soil-test interpretations and fertilizer recommendations for potassium.

    3. Impact of application rate and timing on nitrate-nitrogen loss through subsurface drainage systems - Matthew Helmers, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, ISU. Research has shown a good correlation between nitrogen application rate and annual subsurface drain nitrate-nitrogen concentrations under conventional cropping systems. The impact of timing, however, is not as clear. Some studies show increased subsurface nitrate levels when fertilizer is applied in the fall and some show no difference between fall application and spring application. A project outlined during this session will discuss possible reasons for the differences.
    Other sessions will cover topics such as providing service and support to watershed improvement projects across Iowa, effectiveness of variable-width buffer design for sediment reduction and tillage and cover crop effects on productivity, and soil properties and nitrate leaching, among others.

    The conference is hosted by ISU Extension, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Departments of Agronomy, Entomology, Plant Pathology (AEP), and Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. The program begins at 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 2 in the Scheman Building and the program concludes at 4 p.m. on Dec. 3. To register online or for more information, visit the AEP website at Registration before Nov. 20 is $185; after Nov. 20, registration increases to $235. Enrollment is limited and no registrations will be accepted at the door. Learn more about the Conference online at

    eHay Weekly is a weekly compilation of prices and marketing information for commercial hay growers. Updates include local market conditions, state and regional hay association news, hay prices from around the nation, and links to USDA weekly hay reports. eHay Weekly is brought to you from the editors of Hay & Forage Grower.

      Air Quality Regulations Webcast Provides Update
    The November eXtension webcast presentation is slated to focus on air quality regulations. Presenters will provide updates on the latest information related to animal agriculture and federal programs. Topics tentatively planned will include greenhouse gases, cap and trade, and a recent court ruling on the “dust rule.”

    More information will be posted at: as it becomes available. The webcast is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 20, 2009 at 2:30 pm (EST)/1:30 pm (CST)/12:30 pm (MST)/11:30 am (PST).

    On the day of the webcast, go to to participate. First-time viewers should follow the steps at a few days before the webcast to ensure access to the virtual meeting room.

      EPA Seeks Public Input on National Enforcement Priorities
    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking the public’s assistance in prioritizing future enforcement and compliance activites. The agency is developing priorities for the 2011-2013 fiscal years. The 2008-2010 priorities include concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and eight other topics.

    To learn more about EPA’s enforcement priorities, the criteria for selection for new enforcement priorities, or to submit comments, visit

    NHF Weekly Preview provides pork producers in the United States and Canada with weekly analysis of items that will impact their business. NHF Weekly Preview is brought to you from the editors of National Hog Farmer.

    Send Comments & Questions To
    Dale Miller, Editor, National Hog Farmer

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