again, and measure how much land you covered (Figure 3). If you have access to truck scales, you can weigh a full spreader, apply a load to your field, weigh the spreader, To get the most value from manure, apply it close to planting time. The organic matter in manure is also valuable because it makes soil easier to manage, less likely to erode, and more likely to absorb water. Also, some studies have shown that it takes six months to a year before you can ensure that any pathogens are not present in the composted manure. For example, advertise poultry manure as a fertilizer and horse manure as a mulch or soil amendment. Chicken manure, however, is a sought after fertilizer for organic gardeners. Horse manure is best used as a source of organic matter rather than nutrients. To keep the manure in place and reduce runoff during the winter, plant cover crops like rye and oats whenever you apply manure in the fall (Figure 4). According to Environmental Health News, the poultry industry produces up to 26 million tons of chicken manure each year in the United States alone 1. Craig Cogger, Soil Scientist, Washington State University, can be reached at 253-445- 4512 or cogger@wsu.edu. Fertilizing with Manure. Not all manure provides nutrients to plants. NRAES-54, Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service, www.nraes.org or 1-800-562-3618 (MWPS). Overfertilization may reduce. Poultry manure breaks down faster than manure from horses, cattle, goats, and other animals. Fresh manure breaks down faster than composted manure. Applying too much manure leads to the same problems as applying too much fertilizer. For any field larger than a garden, a manure spreader is a great timesaver. Decide how much nitrogen your crop You can get this information from fertilizer guides or production guides for the crop you are grow- ing. 1-802-656-0484 or www.sare.org/publications/covercrops/covercrops.pdf. If needed for the plants, these nutrients would cost up to $40 per acre as commercial fertilizer. A ton of typical chicken litter (about 2 yds) contains about 70 pounds of nitrogen. In dry regions, salt may accumulate in the soil. It sells for $30 a yard in some parts of the country. Liquid manure and solid poultry manure contain large amounts of inorganic nutrients, especially nitrogen, that dissolve easily. Other manures are too bulky for farmers to buy, but gardeners often seek them to enrich their soil (Figure 5). A relatively dry, easy-handling product (Figure 6) will bring more repeat calls than material from a wet, smelly, or weedy pile. crop yields and can lead to nitrogen filtering into ground- water like wells and aquifers. tion. For example, more than 75% of the nitrogen and. In the second year after being applied, the litter. On-Farm Composting Handbook. Manure contains valuable plant nutrients, like nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and sulfur (S). The principle of calibrating a manure spreader is the same as calibrating a fertilizer spreader, a planter, or a sprayer. Before you start composting manure, learn as much as you can. If we use manure on plants   such as carrots, we need to put. It’s rich in nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), and when combined with straw or similar coop bedding it not only adds nutrients to the soil, but also organic matter. This is enough nitrogen to grow an acre of sweet corn. It is not practical to apply more than 60 tons of manure per acre to any field larger than a garden. This information given herein is for educational purposes only. Applying manure at this time makes it less likely that you will lose nutrients through leaching, or washing away of nutrients, and runoff. Better yet, allow the chickens to free range in the garden at the end of the summer harvest. If half of the nitrogen becomes available to plants during the growing season, 4 tons of chicken litter will supply about 140 pounds of nitrogen. What is Manure Worth? Visit my website at …the garden-roof coop. ore than 65% of the phosphorus that a steer eats will be passed into the manure. Manure that contains lots of bedding will have fewer nutrients per pound than pure manure. If you use low-nutrient manures such as horse manure, you will not be able to apply enough manure to meet crop nutrient needs, and you will need to supplement with other nutrients. The same amount of commercial fertilizer, such as urea, would cost about $45 per acre. Image used by permission – Good Life Press, this study, conducted by the University of Minnesota, “What Would You Do?” The Case of the Wayward Hen, Chicken Breeds and (5-egg) Melt-in-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Bread, How To Keep Your Chickens Safe This Winter, An Education on the Pheasant Raising Business, Build a Low-Cost Playground for your Chickens, 5 Ways to Cool your Chicken Coop this Summer, Farm Fresh Eggs: 7 Things to Tell Your Customers, How to Cook (and Peel) the Perfect Hard Boiled Egg. Appearance sells. The author wishes to thank Marion Simon of Kentucky State University and Wayne Madson of Washington State University Extension, Colville, for their constructive reviews of this fact sheet. Soil organisms are most active when the soil is warm and moist. With the passage of time, pathogens will naturally die. Fresh manure may con- tain Use well- aged or thoroughly composted manure on high-risk crops such as root crops and greens. The organic forms of nutrients come from the remains of plant tissue, cells, and bacteria that are in the manure. Environmental Stewardship for Horse Owners. Visit local composters, too, to look at their systems and learn about which methods could work best for you. Or, do you see that pile as being a liability? Many gardeners are eager to buy or take manure from local farms. If we only think about nutrients, we do not recognize the full value of the manure. The safest practice is to either allow the manure to age for the recommended time or incorporate it into the fall garden soil. Iowa State University, 1-800-562-3618 or www.mwpshq.org. Their nutrient value per ton of manure will be much less. This fact sheet compares the value of different types of manure as sources of nutrients and organic matter. also will slowly release smaller amounts of nutrients. If farm animals spend any part of the year in barns, stalls, pens, loafing areas, or feeding areas, you will need to deal with manure from those areas. Fresh manure sometimes contains pathogens (such as bacteria and viruses) that can cause diseases in humans. If you want more information about testing and estimating the nutrient value of manure from your farm, read “Fertilizing with Manure,” available from Washington State University Extension. Manure nutrient values can vary widely from farm to farm. It’s important to not add fresh or “hot” manure directly to the garden in the spring, otherwise you’ll end up killing or actually burning your plants. The author wishes to thank Diane Huntrods, the LPES Project Manager, at MWPS, Iowa State University, for editing this fact sheet and coordinating its completion. Sustainable Agriculture Network. To estimate manure application rates, follow these steps. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local WSU Extension office. This releases nitrogen and other nutrients into inorganic forms that quickly dissolve. Tiny insects in the soil (Figure 1) break down the organic matter in the manure. Chicken manure, however, is a sought after fertilizer for organic gardeners. USDA-CSREES Small Farm hotline—1-800-583-3071. MWPS. The type of manure and the environment determines how quickly the nitrogen is released (Figure 2). Manure spreaders vary in size, depend- ing on the amount of land you need to spread and the size of your tractor. Using poultry manure for fertilizer has many pros and a few cons. They dissolve in water, and plants can use them right away. These nutrients include ammonium nitrogen, soluble phosphate, and potassium salts. If half of the nitrogen becomes available to plants during the growing season, 4 tons of chicken litter will supply about 140 pounds of nitrogen. www.sare.org/publications/covercrops/covercrops.pdf. Thus, nitrogen is released quickly from manure during the spring or summer and slowly during the winter. This includes crops such as carrots, lettuce and other greens, and straw- berries. Salmonella and certain strains of E. coli are among the most serious pathogens found in animal manure. Using manure rather than commercial fertilizers may have environmental benefits and may be less expensive, especially if poultry manure is readily available for collecting. The amount of nutrients in manure depends on the type of manure and how it is handled. release nutrients because plants cannot use them immediately. As it breaks down, manure containing lots of bedding takes nitrogen from the soil. They’ll clean up the leftover plants and weeds, scratch up the soil and leave their powerful “fertilizer” as an added bonus. Composting manure produces a more attractive product, reduces the volume of manure, and kills pathogens. Manure nutrients come from the feed that the animals have eaten. 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