Program improves manure utilization As with commercial fertilizers, manure must be used at optimum rates and applied effectively in order to gain the greatest crop/economic benefit.

University research has shown a margin of error in applications by growers in excess of 300 percent, says Alan Koehler, worldwide marketing manager for Soilteq. "This is bad for the crops, bad for the grower, and bad for the environment."

Grower applications can also result in unnecessary soil compaction, he notes, as well as added fuel/equipment costs from excessive trips across the field. A little as 24 hours' delay in incorporation can result in as much as 20 percent loss of nitrogen content through volatilization, and the risk of odor problems for adjacent areas.

"What the grower thought was `free' manure nutrients may actually be money out of pocket."

And, Koehler says, state and federal agencies have become more aggressive in regulating manure application because of potential surface water contamination.

"The good news is that earth-friendly manure nutrient management can be cost effective, efficient, and easy - and importantly, it fits perfectly into existing nutrient management programs established for commercial fertilizers."

The Ag-Chem/Soilteq nutrient management system involves four steps.

- Compiling data that will form the basis of planning and decision-making: soil grid tests, yield monitor data, soil surveys, yield goals, etc. "This information is critical for establishing the baseline for the amount of nutrients to be applied on each field in order to achieve the agronomic and environmental objectives."

- Use of SGIS data management software to analyze the compiled data, including recommendations from the local agronomist and lagoon/pit test results, to budget the nutrients required to achieve the yield goal desired. SGIS generates an application map for use with a controller to show the precise amount of manure to be applied across the field.

- Accurate, efficient manure application. A high-flotation Terra-Gator chassis allows high speed application with minimum soil compaction. Hydraulically-driven positive displacement pumps and distributors can modify application rates by adjusting pump speed, and a variety of toolbars and injectors insure accurate injection of the manure into the subsoil, thereby minimizing nitrogen volatilization, runoff, odor, and the need for second-pass incorporation. All this can be done at up to 200 different rates, with a margin of error of less than five percent, regardless of vehicle speed, Koehler says.

- Generation of an electronic record of what was actually applied, when, and where. This is automatically generated and provides a permanent record.

"This technology has been proven and is at work in fields here and in Europe today," Koehler says. It is expected that technology will be available in the near future to do the same with dry manure.

"Manure is here to stay," he says. "Those (in the fertilizer industry) who choose to seize the opportunity and work closely with growers to meet their needs will benefit from additional service revenue, higher margins, and greater consumer loyalty."