Your farm has a nutrient management plan, but does it include your neighbours?
A larger-scale plan is a great idea for intense livestock neighbourhoods that struggle to use manure efficiently. It also ensures nutrients stay in the field and out of tiles and waterways, says Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs field crop sustainability specialist Christine Brown.
In this interview with RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin, Brown shares her views on how livestock and cash croppers can connect to move manure to fields where it is most needed. The concept is not new, but she believes the time is right for a community program given Ontario’s growing focus on nutrient management and the need to ensure excess nutrients don’t find their way to water courses.
Brown feels neighbourhood nutrient management plans could be developed cooperatively with livestock and grain farms. Ideally, a third-party nutrient management or 4R consultant would complete the paperwork with maps, crop rotation options, manure analyses, and soil tests for cooperating farms.
A key goal would be to move manure nutrients from areas of high fertility to areas of low fertility, Brown says. Manure analysis would determine the value of available N, phosphorus, potassium, and, potentially, sulphur. Crop rotations would be considered in the application plan to minimize compaction and maximize nutrient efficiency. The program would also look for opportunities to apply manure to a growing crop or after wheat with cover crops.
Long term, Brown believes neighbourhood plans could even explore opportunities for building additional storage, centrally located facilities or even pipelines to manage transportation cost and road issues.
A community plan would require resources, but there are plenty of benefits to go around, says Brown. A nutrient management consultant could help with the planning, record keeping, sampling and nutrient balancing and be paid by the neighbourhood group. Manure could be applied to fields that require nutrients and organic matter at times that maximize nutrient utilization.
In the interview, Brown discusses how manure could be valued and how farmers could be compensated for their contributions or pay for the nutrients they receive.