Dairy farmers save money, prepare for regulations using manure as fertilizer
Marsha Campbell Mathews, UCCE farm advisor, Stanislaus County, uses a hand-held spot meter to check the flow rate of dairy wastewater mixed with irrigation water being applied to cornfield.
What Has ANR Done?Now, data from the Biologically Integrated Farming Systems (BIFS) program and other UC research projects using flow meters and nitrogen “quick tests” have made it possible for farmers to measure nutrients in the lagoon water. This enables them to reduce or eliminate use of synthetic fertilizers. BIFS is administered by UC's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP).
UCCE associate hydrologist Thomas Harter’s project on the impact of dairy waste and nutrient management on groundwater quality was conducted in conjunction with UCCE farm advisor Marsha Campbell Mathews’ project on the use of dairy lagoon water in the production of forage crops. Harter’s and Campbell Mathew's projects laid the groundwork for the dairy BIFS project, involving farmers and pest control consultants as well as UC farm advisors, specialists and other researchers. Field days, workshops, grower surveys and other tools that directly link researchers with farmers have been used extensively in the project.
BIFS team helps dairy farmers reduce inputs, maintain yieldsIn one on-farm demonstration project, eight BIFS dairy farmers in partnership with UC farm advisors and researchers have optimized the use of animal manure on their forage crops, reducing the use of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and lessening the leaching of nitrates into the soil. Cost savings to the growers averaged $55/acre and went as high as $116/acre. In a related project, Harter found an overall 25% decrease in average shallow groundwater nitrate concentration over four years where cooperating dairy farmers were managing the nutrients on their fields.
Clientele Testimonial“We cut our commercial fertilizer use way back and still managed to maintain our yields. My neighbor has begun to do the same thing. I think there has been a transition in the whole dairy industry.” BIFS dairy farmer Steve Wilbur of SBS Ag,Tulare
Supporting Unit:Sustainable Agriculture
Bev Ransom or Lyra Halprin
SAREP, One Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616-8716