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With runoff likely, farmers told to wait on applying manure to fields

Maureen McCollum, Wisconsin Public Radio

Farmers anxiously awaiting planting season are being told to hold off on applying manure to a good portion of their fields. The risk of nutrient runoff is high across most of the state.

Typically around this time of year, farmers are spreading manure on their fields to give the soil nutrients it needs. But this winter and spring haven't been typical, and many farmers have had to wait to fertilize most of their land.

Mark Jenks is a nutrient management planner with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection.

“We're still looking at frozen ground conditions over most of the state, which limits the ability of the manure to get incorporated into the soil,” Jenks said. “In a lot of places we're still dealing with snow melt as well.”

That's why the state's Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast shows most of the state is at a high risk of runoff. Jenks says farmers need to be cautious when spreading manure so it does not end up in rivers, streams, and lakes.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, there have been a few isolated runoff cases this year that the agency is still investigating.

University of Wisconsin-Extension's Crawford County Agriculture Agent Vance Haugen says farmers are antsy to get the manure out of storage and onto the fields.

“It's been difficult for those folks that do have storage, because storage is getting filled up,” Haugen said. “Plus, we had a lot of snow and of course snow and other things can get into your storage and it can reduce the amount of space that you have.”

Haugen says over the years, farmers have been thinking more about when and where they apply manure in order to consciously prevent runoff problems.