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CAST: Designer feeds could assist manure management
Iowa Correspondent

AMES, Iowa — While U.S. farmers strive to manage manure production, international experts at the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) said the manipulation of nutritional content, quality and availability in plants has the potential to provide “designer feeds” for decreasing manure nutrient output.

“The term ‘biotechnology’ triggers an array of emotions,” said Dr. Xingen Lei, professor of animal science at Cornell University and CAST task force chair. “Because of population growth and the increasing demand for animal foods, global livestock production will continue to evolve from smaller family support systems to larger, more market-oriented, integrated production systems.”

According to the CAST task force, managing nutrients by controlling animal diets is easier than intervening after release of these potential pollutants into the environment.

“Multifaceted mechanisms are implicated, and future research will target improved seed stock development and dietary enzyme use as economical and practical methods of treatment,” said CAST’s July 12 study, titled Biotechnological Approaches to Manure Nutrient Management, the fourth in a nine-part series on Animal Agriculture’s Future through Biotechnology.

The Ames-based agricultural research group found that food animals fed and produced for humans – and the manure from these animals – is a valuable source of fertilizer. But concentrations of manure nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen and metals may exceed needs for plant growth and cause environmental pollution, CAST added.

The report said the total collectible manure produced in the United States amounted to about 56 million dry metric tons per year, and the amount and composition of freshly excreted manure could vary considerably and is influenced primarily by the original composition of the diet, species, and feeding management.

“Through this progression, issues involving environmental contamination, air quality, and animal welfare will be more commonplace, resulting in more complex relationships among the animal industry, society, and governmental agencies,” Lei said.

“Because biotechnology potentially can provide important solutions to these problems, it is critical that we understand and address the associated issues.”

CAST Executive Vice President John Bonner said this latest paper on the effects of biotechnology on manure management provides a more comprehensive and updated review of developed technology – the advances in transgenic animals and microorganisms, in particular – and examines additional areas such as potential biotechnology derived by genomics approaches, integration of multiple technologies in production conditions, and industrial and societal issues related to biotechnology for manure nutrient management.

This farm news was published in the August 23, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.