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By Catherine Andreadis '22
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  • Animal Science
  • Agriculture
  • Soil

A two-year, $125,000 grant from the NY Farm Viability Institute will allow for new research targeted at addressing knowledge gaps in dairy manure management.

Spearheading the project is Quirine Ketterings, professor of nutrient management in the Department of Animal science in Cornell CALS and director of the Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program (NMSP). Ketterings and her team plan to investigate the value of manure as a source of nutrients for crop production and as a contributor to soil health.

“Manure contains all of the essential nutrients needed for crop production and can really boost yield and enhance soil health. In this on-farm research partnership project we work with farmers and farm advisors to not only evaluate manure as a source of valuable nutrients, but also its impact on corn yield, quality and soil health.”

The NMSP develops tools and guidance for nutrient management of field crops, as part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Land-Grant mission. The primary goal of manure management is to recycle manure within farming systems to serve as a source of nutrients for crops, enhancing yield and yield stability over time in an effort to increase whole-farm sustainability.

A manure crediting system was put in place more than 25 years ago to help establish the nutritional richness of manure. The new project will provide data that emphasize the benefits of manure use while also learning to manage manure nutrients from a diversity of manure sources.

Funding will allow Ketterings, the NMSP team and partners to address two primary questions in regard to manure as a nutrient source. The first question is examined through on-farm research trials that evaluate how much nitrogen fertilizer use can be reduced if manure is applied to a field. The second question will analyze the economic benefits for farmers using manure as a nutrient source, as well as the benefits manure fertilization can have on crop yield and forage quality.

This research will help increase the body of knowledge surrounding manure as a nutrient source and the benefits it can have for dairy farmers trying to improve their economic and environmental sustainability.

“We hope this research results in a better understanding of the agronomic and monetary value of manure, greater use of manure nutrients across farm fields, increased yield and yield stability, and reduced nitrogen fertilizer needs for manured fields.”

In keeping with the structure of the NMSP project, research will be carried out using case study farms in the New York region. This model is unique as it connects scientific research with boots on the ground work in extension to find practical and scientifically informed solutions that farmers can implement. The knowledge gained from this research will contribute to a better nutrient crediting system and enable more farms to conduct similar trials beyond the duration of the grant. It is also expected to result in improved distribution of manure across farm acres and adjustments in rates to better match crop and soil needs.

 

Catherine Andreadis '22 is a student writer for the Cornell CALS Department of Animal Science.

 

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