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To better manage nutrients, Lancaster County, Penn. dairy producers install manure storage tanks as part of their conservation plans.
Photo courtesy of USDA-NRCS

 

Manure Du Jour
Serving Pennsylvania's Best Practices on Animal Ag. Air, and Water Quality

By Kristen Saacke-Blunk


Pennsylvania dairy cow.

Photo courtesy of USDA-NRCS.

In January 2009, Penn State Cooperative Extension and its Agriculture and Environment Center debuted the Manure du jour webcast series in response to findings of the 2008 Agriculture in Balance conference.  At the conference, Pennsylvania’s agriculture and environment stakeholders – including agencies, legislators, farmers, and conservation interests – identified the need for increasing the communication of best management practices and the science behind them as a means for improving environmental outcomes.  Now with 25 Manure du jour episodes available with the 2010 Season II additions, and six more planned for the remainder of 2010, the webinar series has significantly enhanced access to the research and application of best management practices – both core and innovative – that are essential to working lands conservation.

Modeled in the spirit of the outstanding webcasts sponsored by the National Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center, Penn State tailored its webinar series for Pennsylvania’s practitioners who work on the front line in support of conservation on working lands including the conservation districts, Pennsylvania’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, agricultural consultants, environmental and agricultural non-governmental organizations, state agencies, and Extension’s own educators and specialists.

By tailoring topics of national and regional interest to Pennsylvania practitioners, organizers offer information addressing the priority issues of professionals taking the lead in increasing conservation at the farm level. Positive response from partner agencies -- particularly the State Conservation Commission, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, NRCS, and county conservation districts -- made it clear that the product and electronic delivery met training and information needs – in a way that preserves limited travel dollars.

The Penn State team that created the webinar series crosses multiple disciplines – drawing from the Agricultural and Biological Engineering-, Dairy and Animal Science-, and Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology departments with information technology specialist support from the College of Agricultural Sciences.  But the key to the program format has been to deliver information that is research-based and ready to hit the ground, so that practitioners are able to leave the one hour programs with specific information for integrating the tools into their work.

What's on the menu for Season II of Manure du jour? 

The 2010 season of this Pennsylvania-grown webinar series has offered an array of choices – ranging from research on alternative and innovative manure application technologies, to waste-to-energy systems, GIS-based decision support tools for adaptive management, to the movement of estrogen through soils and water. Season II highlights include:

Dr. Rick Day
PA One Stop Conservation – An Adaptive Management GIS Tool Dr. Rick Day, Associate Professor of Soil Science and Environmental Information Systems, Penn State Department of Crop and Soil Sciences/ Penn State Land Analysis Laboratory demonstrates the decision support tools that he and colleagues are developing to aid NRCS, Conservation Districts, Extension, and the producers themselves in choosing the best practices given the landscape at the farm scale.

Dr. Dean Hively
Decision Support Tools – Using GIS for Environmental Adaptive Management Dr. Dean Hively, Research Scientist, USGS Eastern Geographic Center, Reston VA and USDA Agriculture Research Service Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory, Beltsville, MD highlights mapping tools in collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay Program for evaluating the performance and management of winter cover crops through an innovative combination of satellite remote sensing and site-specific agronomic data, estimating field-specific cover crop biomass and nitrogen uptake, enabling the calculation of program cost per pound of nitrogen sequestration at the landscape scale.

Dr. Ann Swinker
Best Management and Environmental Stewardship on Equine Operations Dr. Ann Swinker, Extension Horse Specialist, Penn State Dairy and Animal Sciences, highlights the equine sector which represents a significant target group for improving delivery of conservation training and education for the entire Chesapeake Bay region as well as across Pennsylvania. Because regulation of this agricultural sector is not covered under the CAO designations, some small horse facilities are more concentrated than many larger conventional animal operations.

Dr. Jack Watson
Movement of Estrogen and Other Emerging Contaminants through the Environment Dr. Jack Watson, Professor of Soil Science, Penn State Crop and Soil Sciences, focuses this session on contaminants of interest, their fate and transport and specifically estrogen.  He is joined by veteran educator, Jim Clark, Water Resource Penn State Cooperative Extension, who has developed local programming to increase community understanding of reducing the potential for pharmaceutical contamination of groundwater.

Dr. Sarah Dinh
Precision Feeding – The Science and Application of Pollution Prevention at its Best Dr. Sarah Dinh, Dairy and Environment Educator, Penn State Cooperative Extension, Lancaster County and Virginia Ishler, Nutrient Management Specialist, Penn State Dairy and Animal Sciences focus on precision feeding, particularly the research related to dairy as agricultural production processes seek to improve animal uptake of nutrients, maximizing production, and reducing nutrient emissions on the ‘backside of the operation’ through tailored nutritional feeding regimes.

Dr. Rick Stehouwer
Surplus Nutrients to Deficit Regions – Manure Application in PA’s Acid Mine Lands and Trading Scenarios Dr. Rick Stehouwer, Associate Professor of Environmental Soil Science, Penn State Crop and Soil Sciences researches the use of manure to produce biofuel crops in Pennsylvania’s mined lands and combines it with nongovernmental and agency interests in building a business model that incorporates nutrient trading as a component of environmental/cost offsets.

Dave Dunn
Linking Livestock and Renewable Energy  Dave Dunn, Central Vermont Public Service “Cow Power Program” teams up with Dr. Paul Patterson, Professor of Poultry Science, Penn State Department of Poultry Science to present exciting developments on-farm for innovations in waste-to-energy generation and linking farmers to the grid.


What’s ahead for Manure du jour? 

Mark your calendar for this upcoming Manure du jour topic (NOTE: Participation in the live session will require a free Friends of Penn State digital identity in advance of the session.  Recordings can be viewed at anytime at the Penn State Agriculture and Environment.)

Emerging Policy Issues for Pesticide Use on the Farm  Thursday, July 1, 2010, 1:30 to 2:30 PM.   John Becker, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Law will explore the implications of recent US Supreme Court rulings about the application of pesticides by farmers in vicinity of water resources – what the Clean Water Act does and does not require and the national dialogue around when a permit under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) is and is not required.

The full calendar, including past episodes, can be viewed at the Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center website.


About the Writer: Kristen Saacke-Blunk is the director of the Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center and the state program leader for natural resources.