Three years from now, livestock farmers in Hanover and La Broquerie municipalities may not be able to regularly use manure as a soil nutrient. They’ll have to buy commercial fertilizer.
Impossible? Not at all. In fact, it’s more than likely.
A provincial phosphorus application rule means producers in those two municipalities may be able to spread manure only occasionally.
The rule has already been in effect in the rest of Manitoba since 2008. But Hanover and La Broquerie received a temporary reprieve because of a heavy concentration of livestock operations within their borders.
But their time will be up on November 10, 2013.
What does it mean? A big change in manure management practices, according to Don Flaten, a University of Manitoba soil scientist.
“Eventually, all livestock producers who are applying manure will need to apply it on an intermittent basis or apply manure at a much smaller annual rate than currently applied,” Flaten said.
If they can’t use the manure, they’ll have to sell it (if they can), give it away, treat it to remove the phosphorus or haul it to a place where it can be applied, he said.
The new rule under the Livestock Manure and Mortalities Management Regulation limits the amount of phosphorus applied on farmland to the rate at which crops can use it.
Previously, manure applied to the land in Manitoba only had to match crop requirements for soil nitrogen. But the regulation was amended in November 2006 to include phosphorus as well, based on recommendations by an expert phosphorus committee which included Flaten.
Its purpose is to keep phosphorus from building up in the soil and leaching into ground and surface water.
The regulation took effect in 2008, except in Hanover and La Broquerie, which already had a phosphorus surplus and needed time to adapt.
Some 70 farm operations outside those municipalities, also with manure management issues, got a temporary extension as well.
But come 2013, all may find their ability to use manure limited, said Flaten.
He made the observation during a recent soil and manure management workshop at the U of M’s Glenlea research station.
Later, in an email to the Co-operator,Flaten said producers with large farms may be able to rotate their manure applications within their own land base.
“However, farmers with a small land base will probably end up giving manure away or selling it to neighbours at a relatively low price, then replacing it with purchased synthetic (nitrogen) fertilizer, which will add significant costs to their cropping enterprises,” Flaten wrote.
“Other potential new costs include the expense of extra transportation and manure treatment.”
The rule divides manure application rates into four categories, depending on the amount of phosphorus in the soil as measured by the Olsen soil test.
Where the soil phosphorus level is below 60 parts per million (ppm), there is no restriction on phosphorus applications. Only nitrogen rates apply.
Where soil phosphorus is between 60 ppm and 120 ppm, manure may be applied at twice the annual rate at which a crop can absorb phosphorus.
Between 120 ppm and 180 ppm, the application rate is reduced to the crop take-up rate for a single year.
Above 180 ppm, no manure is allowed.
Bryce Wood, a phosphorus regulation officer with Manitoba Conservation, said farmers with fields above allowable phosphorus thresholds may use a “multiyear option” in spreading manure.
They may apply manure up to five times the annual phosphorus removal rate. But they may not put any more manure on that field for the next five years, Wood said.
“In the near term, the multiyear option is an option producers can use. But down the road, if they use the multi-year option on a number of their fields and then they find themselves unable to go back to those fields, then they would have to investigate manure treatment or hauling manure a greater distance.”
Wood said it’s hard to say how many farms in Hanover and La Broquerie could end up in this situation but it could be a few.
Another manure management change coming into effect in 2013 is a province-wide ban on winter spreading.
Operations with more than 300 animal units (AU) are already prevented from spreading manure on fields in winter. That ban will be extended to include operations under 300 AU as well.
The Manitoba Pork Council warns many small producers will go out of business rather than spend the money required for larger manure storages. [email protected]