“This year’s late harvest has delayed many fall field activities including the land application of manure before the ground freezes and spreading restrictions come into effect,” says Chris Ullmann, agri-environmental extension specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
Short-term solid manure storage is one option producers may consider. “If it works for you, start by identifying features with setbacks and select sites outside of those setbacks,” he explains. “Use a map or an aerial photo to select the site. Make a mark 150 m from a residence, 100 m from a spring or water well, and 1 m above any highest known flood level for a water body that floods - like a creek.”
“If there is a common body of water that is shared with neighbours, draw a setback that is at least 30 m wide for flat land and 60 m if the land has a gentle 4 to 6% slope. The setback needs to be 90 m if the slope is more than 6 to 12%, and rule out any area where the slope is greater than 12%.”
He adds that producers can also mark and exclude any short-term sites from the previous 3 years.
“Short-term sites used to store manure for 7 months over winter can be used in a 4 year rotation to meet the time restrictions in the Agricultural Operation Practices Act (AOPA).”
Ullmann says that the next step is to consider practices that minimize the risk of over-applying nutrients and further reduces the risk of manure leaving your property. He suggests:
- Soil test records can help locate piles in the fields where there is less risk of exceeding nitrogen or salinity limits.
- Sample and test the manure to help plan for spring application and to meet crop needs.
- Smaller piles and windrows melt quicker, making for easier access in the spring. Very large piles can remain frozen and inaccessible until late summer.
- Store out of the public eye. Storage that does not obstruct sightlines are better for public safety and reduces the chance of friction with other landowners.
- Select lands that do not drain off your property, ensuring that any run-off from storage remains on your land.
- Berms, covers and catchment can further reduce the risk of manure-impacted run-off.
Permanent storage construction is another option. “Building more storage reduces the needs for intensive planning and field beneficial management practices. Contact the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) for more information on obtaining a permit to construct a permanent manure storage. There are also grants available to help producers build additional storage when they do not have enough capacity.”
“If you feel storage is not an option for you this year, and you need to spread in winter conditions, contact the NRCB. They will work with you to address your emergency spreading needs,” he adds.
To speak to an agri-environmental extension specialist, contact the Alberta Ag-Info Centre:
Hours: 8 am to 5 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Toll free: 310-FARM (3276)