Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Research Reports Iowa State University
(funded by The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture)

Manure and Nutrient Management Competitive Grants, past and present (Researcher affiliation listed is for the period of the project and may have since changed.)

Manure and Nutrient Management Competitive Grants, past and present (Researcher affiliation listed is for the period of the project and may have since changed.)

Agriculture Farming Systems Project at the Allee Research Center, Newell,   Buena Vista County, 3 years, $73,968 (#88-09); Mark Honeyman, ISU Outlying Research Centers; and A Comparison of Farming Systems at Allee Research Center, Buena Vista County, 1 year, $19,850 (#91-36); Dean Grundmann, ISU Agronomy Extension

    The six-year project was established by the ISU Ag and Home Economics Experiment station in 1987 and concluded in 1992. Leopold Center funding included years two through five and was issued under the two competitive grant numbers shown. The project was designed to compare a petrochemical-based, high-tillage, low-management cropping system; a ridge-till, reduced fertilizer and pesticide, high-management system; and a rotational, low-pesticide, low-fertilizer conventional tillage system. Overall, the study suggests that a complex cropping system can compete economically if high management is applied and adequate time is allowed for transition.

The Effects of Organic vs. Chemical Fertilizers on Insect Pathogens, 3 years, $70,644 (#92-18); Les Lewis, USDA-ARS, Midwest Area Corn Insects Research Unit, Ankeny

    The project studied the effects of various fertilizers (fresh cow manure, composted cow manure, and urea) on potential black cutworm biocontrol organisms (nematode Steinernema carpocapsae and fungus Beauveria bassiana). Results showed that S. carpocapsae is more active in soils with no fertilizer or composted manure than fresh manure or chemical fertilizer; B. bassiana is adversely affected by fresh manure.

Manure Management Education and Demonstration Project - Cedar County, 2 years, $4,000 (#92-19); Jerry Long, Kenneth Muller, Greg Brenneman, ISU Extension

    The project demonstrated an economical on-farm testing kit to help farmers make environmentally sound management decisions for manure application to agricultural land. The results of the testing were compared with laboratory analysis to determine the kit's accuracy.

Calibration of the Late-Spring Soil Test for Manured Soils, 3 years, $75,000 (#92-28); Alfred Blackmer, ISU Department of Agronomy

    Iowa farmers cooperated at 111 sites to calibrate the late-spring soil nitrate test on manured cornfields. Results showed that the guidelines for using the late-spring test in manured cornfields needed to be revised to decrease amounts of fertilizer nitrogen recommended.

Animal Manure Utilization in Crop Nutrient Management Planning: An On-Farm Demonstration with Selected Producers in Northeast Iowa, 2 years, $30,000 (#93-10); Gerald Miller, ISU Department of Agronomy

    Cooperating farmers were instructed in manure spreader calibration and other means for taking advantage of manure's fertilizer value. All of the farmers who participated in the program continued to take credit for more of the nutrient resources available on their farms, with 70% increasing use of manure credits and 30% increasing use of legume credits.

Effect of Tillage, Crop Rotation, and Innovative Nitrogen and Pesticide Management Practices on Productivity, Sustainability, and Water Quality, 3 years, $84,224, (#93-14); Rameshwar Kanwar, ISU Department of Ag and Biosystems Engineering

    In this project the effects of seven nitrogen management practices on water quality were evaluated after collecting data from 40 experimental plots. Project work included evaluations of N application rates, strip and hay cropping systems, herbicide banding, and late-spring nitrate test. Work was continued for an additional year under grant project 97-60.

Mahaska County Livestock Manure/Crop Nutrient Demonstration, 3 years, $31,995 (#95-05); Joe Sellers, Mahaska County Livestock Management Committee, ISU Extension

    The project was designed to improve manure application methods on Mahaska County farms through on-farm demonstrations, educational events, and evaluation of crop residue levels, soil nitrate levels, cornstalk nitrate levels, and yields.

Animal Manure/Municipal Yard Waste Composting Project in Wright County, 2 years, $30,000 (#96-06); Randy Killorn and Don Wetterauer, ISU Agronomy Extension

    Responding to concerns about limited landfill space and disposal of manure from confinement livestock production, residents of Clarion linked with an area poultry producer to mix yard wastes with animal manure to produce garden and flowerbed compost.
    The State of Iowa has banned disposal of yard wastes in the state’s sanitary landfills since January 1991. Many Iowa communities are looking for alternative methods of disposing of yard waste generated in the community. Some sort of composting operation is a popular solution. Small, rural communities may lack the volume of materials needed to efficiently operate a composting facility. However, in these areas livestock manure may provide additional material to compost successfully. In Wright County, Iowa, for example, the number of animal confinement facilities has increased dramatically in the last several years. The quantities of animal waste produced at these facilities often equals or exceeds the amount of waste generated by the human community in the area. Rural residents, farm and non-farm alike, are concerned with the quantities of manure produced and the effect on their quality of life.
    The city of Clarion, in Wright County, Iowa was selected for the project because of the high concentration of animal confinement feeding facilities in the area and the strong interest and support of the community. The city public works director was responsible for providing a site for the compost piles and on-site management of the project.
Clarion Composting Project
wpe3.gif (23807 bytes)The initial compost windrow was about 12 feet wide, 8 feet high and 75 feet long.These dimensions were large enough to hold in heat generated by the compost and small enough to allow air infiltration. The size of the windrow was also tailored to accommodate the equipment used for turning the windrow. Yard waste and poultry manure were mixed in a 1:1 ratio on 22 May 1995. The moisture content of the poultry manure  was about 43% and provided the right amount of moisture for the compost pile. Based on the characteristics of the pile during active composting the ratio of materials was about right. We were able to keep the pile at the proper temperature and there was very little odor. This indicated that there was not an excessive amount of N in the raw materials, the moisture content was good, and that there was adequate air infiltration preventing anaerobic conditions. After 100 days the temperature of the windrow was near ambient air temperature and the active phase of composting was complete. The first batch of Clarion compost was moved to curing pile and was made available for distribution. A second pile was initiated in the fall of 1995 and in 1996 piles were again established in the spring and the fall.
    The composting project received good publicity by the local newspapers and was well received by the local community. Several field days were held which offered citizens the opportunity to learn about compost and to haul the compost away for use.

Development of Guidelines for Swine Manure Application in Corn for N Management, 3 years, $75,000 (#96-10); Alfred Blackmer, ISU Department of Agronomy

    This project was a continuation of work to generate guidelines for site-specific use of swine manure as corn fertilizer. The project used the late-spring soil nitrate test and end-of-season cornstalk testing to gather data from more than 100 on-farm trials across Iowa.

Development of a Nutrient Balance for Iowa for Evaluating and Targeting Sustainable Agriculture and Nonpoint Source Control Programs, 1 year funding with work still underway, $13,900 (#96-63); George Hallberg, University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory

    The goal of the project is to develop a nutrient balance database for Iowa cropland on a county-by-county basis. It is expected to provide a tool for statewide program targeting and evaluation.

Education-based Incentive Program to Enhance Long-term Adoption of Sustainable Nutrient and Pest Management-A Demonstration with Farmers in Northeast Iowa, 2 years, $13,920 (#97-21); Gerald Miller, ISU Department of Agronomy

    By equipping producers, particularly early career farmers, with expertise in soil map reading, soil testing, setting realistic yield goals, and other skills, this project's goals are to provide a learning model for career-long return on farmers' time investment. An important element of the program helps participants learn by doing on their own farms.
    It is widely recognized that improving the environmental sustainability of agriculture will require producers to increase the intensity of their management process, including the use of more detailed information, analysis, planning and record keeping. For crop nutrient and pest management (NPM), there are well-established management practice refinements which publicly supported projects in Iowa have thoroughly documented to reduce excess or untimely environmental loading of agricultural chemicals, increase use of on-farm resources, and maintain or increase profitability. In spite of their profitability, however, many farmers are slow to adopt NPM practices and best results have been obtained from special projects where staff provide one-on-one assistance and education.
    Public financial incentives for NPM were initially established for water quality and environmental conservation projects on a private sector expert assistance model rather than an educational model. Producers receiving incentives hire crop consultants to "deliver" NPM plans, scouting reports and recommendations. To date there is little evidence that the incentive program have produced change in producers’ long term attitudes about more sustainable management. This pilot project is aimed at demonstrating an operational model for a cost effective educational incentive that can be used on a large scale to cause change in producer’s attitudes and approach to nutrient and pest management planning. In its third year, it has already begun to have an impact on NPM efforts in other projects in Iowa and elsewhere.
    The NPM Incentive Education Program (NPMI) is a local initiative developed by ISU Extension, NRCS staff and the advisory committee of the Northeast Iowa Demonstration and Sny Magill Creek HUA projects. It requires participating farmers to learn the basics of NPM by creating plans and records for their own farms. Participants move through the program in a series of workshops with a group of 8 to 10 other participants and receive incentive payments for elements of planning completed.
    Twenty producers enrolled during 1996 for a three-year series of workshops beginning in crop year 1997(CY97). They are the third group of participants in this pilot educational program. During their first year, they have written and implemented nutrient/manure management plans for their farms, and prepared end-of-year field and economic records. Retention of participants in this group has been better than in the initial groups, partially because they are more established farmers, and also because workshop methods are being refined to better meet the participant’s needs. Leopold Center funding provides incentive payments for this group based on acres they have enrolled in the program. The NPMI incentives are paid for performance of specific program components.
    Outreach from the project has been very successful. The project’s biweekly NPM newsletter is designed to assist participants with field scouting and timely field/pest management decisions. Circulation of this newsletter has increased to many local producers who are not active in the project but find it a useful tool to improve their management. A number of other Iowa water quality projects are planning or in the early stages of implementing NPM incentive education based on this model project, and staff have provided training and materials for them. Presentations about the NPM Incentive Education approach have also attracted attention from water quality projects in other states.
    Comparisons of baseline and annual surveys of participants show that the program is effective in giving producers confidence to manage fertility programs, rather than relying on suppliers. Participants have adopted increased field scouting, reduced use of purchased fertilizers, and improved manure management.

Impacts of Swine Manure Application and Alternative N- Management Practices  on Productivity, 1 year, $29,460 (#97-60); Rameshwar Kanwar, ISU Department of Ag and Biosystems Engineering

    The project continued the work of grant 93-14 at the ISU Northeast Research farm near Nashua, which focused on the impacts of fertilizer and manure management practices on Iowa surface and ground water. The work is intended to aid in development of best management practices for swine manure and for overall nitrogen management.

Manure Management (Animal Waste) Management Issue Team
Stu Melvin, leader - 1991-1995. Included the following projects:

The Role of Animal Production in Agricultural Sustainability in Iowa
Mike Duffy, Jim Kliebenstein, Bob Jolly, Department of Economics, Iowa State University

Effects of Land Application of Liquid Swine Manure on Soybean Yield and the Environment
Randy Killorn, Agronomy Extension, Iowa State University

An Integrated Grain and Swine Production Farm System Study
Stu Melvin, Dwaine Bundy, Steven Hoff, Department of Ag and Biosystems Engineering; Dean Zimmerman, Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University

Swine Hoops Systems Initiative
Mark Honeyman, Jim Kliebenstein, Jay Harmon, Tom Richards, Don Lay

    The initiative involves construction of hoops and a scale model confinement facility at the Rhodes Research Farm ($100,000, completed in fall of 1997); and an annual commitment of $50,000/year for the next three years to support research on key producer questions regarding comparisons of hoops and confinement operations. Other questions surrounding the comparison of hoops and confinement operations will be identified through meetings of producers and other interested parties (first focus group meeting Jan. 13, 1998).
    For more information, click here (pdf-file).


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