Whatcom soil nitrate levels in dairy crop land decreasing, producers attend manure nutrient management training
During a four-hour manure nutrient management session, a packed room of Ag-producers hear experts describe best
management practices, rules/regulatory updates, and required recordkeeping for water quality
Dairy producers are working on several strategies to improve water quality. Record numbers of dairy producers are opting to participate in training to learn new approaches to manure nutrient application that will prevent manure impacts to both surface and ground waters.
In a recent WSDA progress report to the Legislature entitled “Implementation of nutrient management training program for farmers,” a total of 296 ag-producers who use manure nutrients in their cropping systems participated in 10 accredited training sessions that were conducted by local conservation districts. Farmers learned how enhanced practices – when applying manure nutrients at the right time, right place and right amount – help to avoid over- application on field crops.
In 2015 approximately 100 dairy farmers attended pilot manure management training programs conducted by the Whatcom and South Yakima conservation districts. According to Brent Barnes, Assistant Director at WSDA, “These early events were well attended and prompted the industry to ask the 2016 Legislature for additional funding for future training and related activity. There has been good response from ag producers in early 2016. There will be additional training events during the next year hosted by WSU and local conservation districts.”
The work with producers gets more productive as recordkeeping on land applications is available for use in developing their field nutrient budgets. Barnes explains, “WSDA rulemaking resulted in specific recordkeeping requirements in November 2012. The Dairy Nutrient Management Program has done a great job working with dairy producers to make sure they are meeting the recordkeeping requirements and using them to make good decisions about land application of all nutrients.”
Twin Brook Creamery implements multi-faceted water quality stewardship activities
A ten-foot buffer of trees and vegetation along Fishtrap Creek has improved stream flow and salmon habitat.
Fourth generation dairy farmer Larry Stap’s family began their dairy operation in 1910, and in 2007 opened Twin Brook Creamery. The family has always embraced best farm practices – from animal care to stewardship of the land, including care for Fishtrap Creek that runs along part of the farm’s east boundary.
In 2007 the Twin Brook family team forged an agreement with the Washington State Department of Ecology, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association to develop a ten-foot buffer of trees and vegetation along Fishtrap Creek.
Together with various government agencies, effectiveness of the vegetation buffer was assessed and determined that it improved stream flow and enhanced salmon habitat. Sampling data is used as a baseline for future setback planning to prevent runoff, if any, from crop fields. “Over the years Whatcom dairy producers have implemented a number of environmental practices to enhance water quality and stewardship of the land,” says Stap, co-owner of the family’s farm and creamery.
“We work closely with the departments of Fish & Wildlife, Ecology, Agriculture and the Whatcom Conservation District to assess any runoff by developing special tree/vegetation buffers, field re-sloping and field cultivation; and we support agencies that monitor water quality coming from Canada.”
The 23,665-acre Fishtrap Creek Watershed is one of the largest lowland tributaries where drainage flows into the Nooksack River. The watershed covers more than 36 square miles, including the 17-mile-long Fishtrap Creek, a portion running along Twin Brook farm land – located a stone’s throw from the Canadian border.
Anaerobic digestion field day explains conversion of manure nutrients into useful byproducts
Dairy farmers learn more about anaerobic digestion of manure nutrients during WSU fiield day at Edaleen Dairy
Anaerobic digestion of manure nutrients reduces odor and greenhouse gases (GHG); produces renewable energy; protects water quality and creates useful by-products such as nutrient-rich compost and soil amendments. Anaerobic digestion recovers energy with a closed system that uses anaerobic bacteria and enzymes to break down organic molecules in manure. The process produces methane gas which powers a diesel generator. The generator produces electricity or can be converted to biogas scrubbed for use as natural gas, and even ethanol.
In June, Edaleen Dairy hosted about 80 participants for an anaerobic digestion systems field day organized by the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources
(CSANR). Dairy producers viewed firsthand how anaerobic digestion systems produce energy from organic manure and food processing residues.
“A digester is solid technology that has been out there for a long time and we know how to make it work. But alone it doesn’t necessarily solve all of dairy’s challenges,” says Chad Kruger Director, CSANR. “Producers evaluate different technology options that can work with digesters to further reduce air emissions or nutrient-based emission that can go out through ground water.”
“Researchers are packaging different nutrient recovery technologies for clean water and recovered fertilizer products that can be used by crop farmers,” Kruger said. “We no longer look at digesters as only an energy technology, but as a system that incorporates centrifuges, dissolved systems or other technology to manage organics and fertilizer in the future. The dairy industry is investing in current technology, as well as research for further development needs and the consequences from a farm economic perspective.”
The Anerobic Field Day was preceded by well-attended webinars in April that focused on tools dairy farmers can use to assess the cost of manure recovery technologies, in addition to the cost of maintaining their Dairy Nutrient Management Plan. The CSANR, in collaboration with public- and private-sector partners, recruited experts to present new data and economic tools in the five-part series that attracted about 85 participants to each webinar.
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