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GPS can help farmers with manure management plan
Michigan Correspondent

FOWLER, Mich. — A Global Positioning System (GPS) device can help farmers make the most of their manure management plan. Producers learned about the technology during the Great Lakes Manure Handling Expo July 27 at Berlyn Acres near Fowler, Mich.

“The technology gives farmers ways to better document manure application rates and placement as you come under increasing scrutiny from environmental interests,” said Jay Solomon, an Extension specialist with the University of Illinois.

Participants in the session were introduced to the equipment and software needed to map field boundaries, record the travel path of the equipment and collect as-applied manure data, which could then be used as verification of nutrient management plan compliance. A hands-on demonstration sent seminar attendees across a field with a hand-held GPS unit to determine boundaries for manure application around a water well.

University of Illinois Extension Specialist Pete Fandel, who presented the seminar with Solomon, said that one of their research goals was to devise a lower cost GPS plan to assist farmers with their manure management.

The two researched and tested several GPS units before settling on a hand-held model that costs about $1,500 vs. the $5,000-$10,000 cost of a commercial unit. In addition, they suggested several software options that vary in price depending on the producer’s needs.

“One of our goals was to put together a system that was affordable and easy to use,” Fandel said.

The pair said that GPS data collection is a valuable management tool for many reasons.

“One of the things you have to think about are places you aren’t supposed to apply,” Solomon said.

“You can be more accurate as a producer,” Fandel said. “You can use the data to prove that you did what you’re supposed to do in terms of your manure management plan.

“The technology increases the value of manure to crop producers by providing documentation on N, P and K placement with geo-referenced fertility maps.

“The software allows you to collect boundaries or data points of an area. You can grid soil samples, manure application, tillage records. Basically anything you do out in the field can be recorded with one of these systems.”

“You can create as-applied manure maps to document where every gallon went in the field. From a lawsuit standpoint it becomes very good documentation.”

Donna Patience, nutrient management coordinator with Cold Springs Farm in Thamesford, Ontario, attended the one-day training “to keep up with technology.”

Sally McMullen, land and nutrient resources coordinator with Elite Swine Inc. in Thamesford, said she was interested in learning about manure sales.

“We take manure to neighbors,” she said. “I’m trying to get a better idea of value.”

Jos Tuinier of Pickton, Texas, said he traveled to Michigan for the Great Lakes Manure Handling Expo because “It’s always good to learn something new.”

The operator of a 1,000-cow dairy in Texas, the native of Holland said one of his goals is to manage manure “so the neighbors don’t stop and complain.”

Bill Hensell of Constantine in St. Joseph County, Mich. attended the Expo “to get some ideas.”

He said he has to inject the manure from his feedlot “to please the community as far as the odor and to save nutrients.”

The one-day Great Lakes Manure Handling Expo, organized by Michigan State University Extension nutrient management team, featured in-field equipment demonstrations, educational sessions and more than 40 commercial vendor displays.

This farm news was published in the August 9, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.