In a matter of just a few months, life as we knew it came to a halt. Health concerns mounted, travel all but stopped, events were canceled, and some every day goods became difficult to find. This global pandemic rocked our country to the core, both personally and economically.
What hasn’t stopped is agriculture.
Early on, anyone farming or working in agriculture was deemed an essential employee by the government and was asked to continue working while other businesses closed and people sheltered in place. The value of agriculture and a stable food supply was magnified. Of course, we knew farming was essential all along, but hopefully more consumers now feel that way, too.
As winter turned to spring and spring into summer, fields were prepared and planted. Pandemic or not, there was manure hauling, tillage, and planting to do. I hope that when this magazine reaches your mailbox, you are in a good spot with planting and have crops that are growing well.
We can’t control the weather, but we can give crops other tools to succeed, including the right nutrients at the right time. These essential nutrients can be delivered through manure, a plentiful by-product on any livestock farm.
I was at a conference this winter (prepandemic) and sat at a table with a gentleman who ran a custom manure hauling business for 30 years. We were talking about some of the changes he has seen over time. He said that early on in his career, when he asked farmers where they wanted the manure applied, they would commonly reply, “Just get rid of it.” While farmers have long known about the valuable nutrients in manure, the main purpose of emptying the manure storage structure was often very simple — to make room for the next year.
While we still need to clear out those pits and lagoons, over time, we have become much more particular about where those nutrients go. There are agronomic reasons: We want to target fields and crops that can make the best use of the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium found in manure.
There are also economic benefits. The more nutrients that can be utilized from manure, the less money that will need to be spent on commercial fertilizers.
And then there are the environmental implications. Putting manure where it can be used and will not become a source of runoff is better for us, for our neighbors, and for the world around us.
Several articles in this issue focus on the nutrient content of manure and ways to deliver those nutrients to cropland. The area of manure management continues to grow with new technology to help us store, process, and utilize this resource. At the core, though, manure is an excellent nutrient source for our crops, plain and simple. Use the tools available to make these nutrients work for you.
Summer is such a busy time of year for those in production agriculture, and this year, COVID-19 could make life even more challenging. Please be safe, stay healthy, and take pride in the essential work you are doing, day in and day out.
Until next time,
This article appeared in the May 2020 issue of Journal of Nutrient Management on page 4.
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