Ohio State Extension
Nutrient management discussions, including manure, have had plenty of time in the limelight. Last year, the Ohio legislature passed Senate Bill 150, and Gov. Kasich signed it into law in June 2014. This instituted an Agricultural Fertilizer Applicator Certification requirement, which more than 100 Coshocton County farmers completed last year. Then in July of this year, a new law was signed that was passed early in the year as Senate Bill 1. This new law does not directly affect farmers in our area. The new law specifically includes only farms in the Western Lake Erie Basin watershed, which are in northwest Ohio.
Recently the Environmental Protection Agency and several agricultural livestock associations including beef, poultry, egg, pork and milk producers, advocated for environmentally sound use of manure. Manure has been used throughout history as a fertilizer, soil amendment, energy source and even construction material. There are many different components in manure and each has some specific uses. These components include nutrients, organic matter, solids, energy potential, and fiber. Advances in technology allow us to use manure more efficiently and in more ways. When manure is properly managed, it serves as a valuable, renewable resource.
Adding manure to soil is also an excellent way to increase the amount of organic matter. Organic matter is important for soil health. It allows the soil to function as a living ecosystem and support microbial life. Soils with higher organic matter have greater capacity to hold water. This reduces water runoff which keeps more soil and nutrients in the fields instead of entering waterways.
Nutrients and organic matter are commonly discussed benefits of using manure. You may not know some of the more unique opportunities with other manure components. The carbon in manure can be used to generate different types of biofuels. A process called anaerobic digestion uses microbes to process manure into biogas. This can be used as an energy source for heat or electricity or to sell to the local power grid.
And finally manure also contains a large amount of fiber. There are some pretty amazing things made from this fiber including plant growth medium that is similar to peat moss, paper, and building materials. While I was in South Dakota this summer, I saw some stationary in a gift shop that said it had been made from animal manure. The brand of paper was, I kid you not, “Poopoopaper.” I have to admit I thought that was rather gross at first, but after learning just how much fiber can be recovered from animal manure, it’s a pretty resourceful idea.
Emily Adams is the Ohio State University Extension educator for Coshocton County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was originally published in the Coshocton (Ohio) Tribune.