Facilitating "Win-Win" Manure Utilization for Sustained Soil Health, Economic and Environmental Benefits

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2018: $74,905.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Amy Schmidt
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Rick Koelsch
University of Nebraska

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn, hay, sorghum (milo), soybeans, wheat
  • Animals: bovine, poultry, swine


  • Animal Production: manure management
  • Crop Production: fertilizers, nutrient cycling, nutrient management, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, technical assistance, workshop
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Crop farmers will experience agronomic, economic, and environmental benefits by recycling locally-available animal manure as a soil amendment on crop fields and animal feeding operations (AFO) will benefit from off-farm transfer of excess manure nutrients to neighbors.
    Research has demonstrated manure's immediate value from:

    1) Improved soil physical and biological properties resulting in less erosion and runoff;
    2) Reduced nitrate leaching to ground and surface water;
    3) Reduced fertility costs; and
    4) Less imported inorganic fertilizer reducing excess nutrients in agricultural regions.

    This project will target both public sector advisors (extension and NRCS professionals) and private sector crop consultants who advise crop farmers in Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa.
    An existing multi-state working group will deliver a professional development program for those advising crop farmers intended to:

    • Build awareness of manure's value;
    • Demonstrate benefits locally via on-farm research; and
    • Teach crop farmers to confidently identify "win-win" opportunities for manure use on cropland.

    This project will utilize existing NRCS soil health field test kits and assessment metrics to deliver a curriculum addressing soil health and related benefits of manure. We will use replicated on-farm research and in-field educational experiences to encourage confidence in key educational messages.

    This project will support SARE's sustainability goals of long term profitability (better utilization of manure's nutrient value), stewardship of natural resources (improved water and soil quality), and quality of life for rural communities (limit risk of manure's negative qualities, such as odor).

    Project objectives from proposal:

    MaSH team and PD participants will develop expertise and educational products in four MaSH principles:

    1. Manure's benefits to soil and water quality.
    2. Manure nutrient planning for replacement of commercial fertilizers.
    3. Identifying win/win fields for substituting manure for inorganic fertilizer.
    4. Recognizing and planning for mitigation of negative risks such as odor and soil compaction.

    Crop farmers and their advisors will develop an awareness and knowledge of the above four principles and how to apply them on their operation or with clients.

    Short Term Impact Indicators

    1. 3 state teams piloting educational experiences on Manure and Soil Health topics.
    2. Number of educational experiences delivered to targeted audiences.
    3. Knowledge gain and more positive attitudes toward manure by targeted audiences of professional development grant


    Three state teams and 75 professional development participants will:

    • Deliver educational experiences and expert advice on the MaSH Principles.
    • Implement replicated on-farm research trials and demonstrations of how to maximize manure's value to crop farmers.   • Summarize on-farm research results for local validation of manure's value.

    Crop farmers and advisors will pilot inclusion of manure into fertility programs with intent of achieving 4 MaSH principles.

    Intermediate Impact Indicators:

    1. 3 state teams implementing on-farm research and demonstration program.
    2. Number of target audience participants trained.
    3. Crop farmers and their advisors intension to substitute manure in "win-win" situations for inorganic fertilizers.
    4. On-farm research results.


    Extension and NRCS professionals will deliver sustained research and education support on MaSH Principles.

    Crop farmers and their advisors will choose to use animal manure within fertility programs for situations that achieve both an economic win and a natural resource win.

    Animal feeding operations will transfer greater amounts of manure off-farm to neighboring crop farmers, reducing excess phosphorus within their operation.

    Less inorganic fertilizer will be imported into agricultural regions contributing to lower regional nitrogen and phosphorus excess balances.

    Long-term Impact Indicators:
    Given the time frame of this three year proposal, this project will not attempt to measure conditional changes resulting from on-farm application.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.