Wallaces Farmer

The new restrictions went into effect last July, and prohibit surface application of liquid manure on frozen and snow-covered ground during certain time periods.

Rod Swoboda 1, Editor, Wallaces Farmer

December 6, 2009

4 Min Read

With the late 2009 harvest, some farmers didn't get all the livestock manure applied this fall as planned. If you want to apply manure to crop ground before spring, keep this in mind: Iowa has a new state law that dictates the timing of manure application on snow-covered and frozen ground.

The law, which went into effect this past July, states: "Surface application of liquid manure from a confinement operation is prohibited on frozen ground from Feb. 1 to April 1 and on snow-covered ground from Dec. 21 to April 1, except when there is an emergency."

The new law applies only to liquid manure from confinement producers—those with completely roofed facilities. And it applies only to farmers who are required by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to have a manure management plan. "For the most part, the law will affect confinement producers with hog operations housing 1,250 or more finishers and dairy farms with 350 or more cows," says Gene Tinker, coordinator of DNR's animal feeding operation rules.

The law does not prohibit winter application of dry manure or solid or bedded manure. But farmers should manage all manure carefully to avoid water quality violations, emphasizes Tinker.

Know the trigger dates for these new rules to apply

Everyone will be watching to see how the new law will play out. "Farmers need to pay attention to the trigger dates," says Eldon McAfee, an attorney representing the Iowa Pork Producers Association. "Even if it does freeze or snow prior to Dec. 21, the law doesn't restrict application on snow until then. Applying manure on snow is a last resort. But with the weather we've had it may be necessary to use the law this first winter."

The law applies only to surface application. If you can inject manure into soil during these time periods, that's not illegal. Farmers want to avoid applying manure on frozen ground and on snow-covered ground. But manure may be applied during the "no application" dates in the case of an emergency. One emergency situation is unusual weather.

"I urge producers to understand the law," says McAfee. "If pits are full and manure must be applied, you can use the new law. You need to call DNR and always follow the requirements and make your neighbors aware."

What if you have questions or are in an emergency situation?

Most livestock producers already follow carefully-developed manure management plans. McAfee says stick to the plans and be aware of the new law and the exceptions that may need to be used to allow you to legally apply manure. If you have questions, contact the nearest regional DNR office to you.

Kevin Gilbert and family have a farrow-to-finish operation near Ionia. They finish 15,000 head annually and grow all the corn to feed the hogs. Due to harvest delays and having time to apply manure then, Gilbert developed a harvest application cycle this fall. He harvested 15 to 20 acres of corn then injected manure. He repeated that cycle many times. "We want to apply manure as late as we can to make sure it's well incorporated," he says. "We do our best to get it into the ground and keep the nitrogen there."

Ten years ago Gilbert bought tank truck to take care of his farm's manure application work. He injects manure on his own schedule, without waiting for his turn to use a commercial application service. He likes to be the one who decides when and where manure will be applied.

Steps to take if you need to apply manure in an emergency

Failure to have adequate storage volume won't warrant an emergency application. If an emergency application is required, specific steps must be followed:

* Notify DNR before applying. Apply the manure on land identified in the plan.

* Apply the liquid manure on land with a phosphorous index of 2 or less.

* Temporarily block any surface tile intake on land in the plan, down grade from the application, during application and for at least two weeks after.

* Properly manage the storage structure and account for amount of manure to be stored. For structures constructed after July 1, 2009 you must build them to have at least 180 days of storage.

The new law makes it illegal to surface apply liquid manure on frozen or snow-covered ground, sums up Tinker. It prohibits surface application of liquid manure from confinement facilities. And there are certain time periods during winter when this new law is in effect.

About the Author(s)

Rod Swoboda 1

Editor, Wallaces Farmer

Rod, who has been a member of the editorial staff of Wallaces Farmer magazine since 1976, was appointed editor of the magazine in April 2003. He is widely recognized around the state, especially for his articles on crop production and soil conservation topics, and has won several writing awards, in addition to honors from farm, commodity and conservation organizations.

"As only the tenth person to hold the position of Wallaces Farmer editor in the past 100 years, I take seriously my responsibility to provide readers with timely articles useful to them in their farming operations," Rod says.

Raised on a farm that is still owned and operated by his family, Rod enjoys writing and interviewing farmers and others involved in agriculture, as well as planning and editing the magazine. You can also find Rod at other Farm Progress Company activities where he has responsibilities associated with the magazine, including hosting the Farm Progress Show, Farm Progress Hay Expo and the Iowa Master Farmer program.

A University of Illinois grad with a Bachelors of Science degree in agriculture (ag journalism major), Rod joined Wallaces Farmer after working several years in Washington D.C. as a writer for Farm Business Incorporated.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like