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Tackling No-Till Manure Concerns

There's no doubt that broadcasting manure has its share of problems. But these no-tillers say the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

Since the dawn of time, farmers have been using manure to fertilize their fields. And why not? It’s cheap, there’s a lot of it and it yields definite advantages to producing a healthy crop.

Then came strip malls, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and sensitive-nosed neighbors. They cited runoff, phosphorus concerns and odor as their reasons to object to manure application by livestock producers.

But was it necessary? These farmers say there’s still a place for manure in modern no-tilling and have the crops to prove it.

John Koons, Waynesboro, Pa.

With 700 acres of cropland and 230 dairy cattle in the family farming operation, John Koons along with his son, John Koons, Jr., saw that using the manure his cattle produced to fertilize his no-till fields made economic sense.

“I do a lot of doublecropping,” he says. “Without the manure on top of the ground, I’m convinced I couldn’t do it. It would be better to lose all the nutrients in that manure and still have the moisture saving capabilities on our ground.

“I don’t care how many nutrients you have in your soils, if you don’t have moisture, you’re going to lose some yield. You lose all the benefits of no-till when you start putting manure underground. And we have to crop every year if we want to sell our grain and feed our cattle.”

Even though last year gave his part of the country record-breaking droughts, areas where he had surface-applied manure looked as if they had…

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