UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As Pennsylvania works to meet its goals under a federally led program to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Penn State Extension is hosting an event aimed at helping agricultural producers to reduce negative impacts of excess manure nutrients on local and downstream waterways.
The 2022 North American Manure Expo will take place July 13-14 near Chambersburg, Franklin County. The event — which features a trade show, demonstrations and educational workshops — provides an opportunity for commercial applicators and livestock producers to advance their knowledge about manure-nutrient utilization, while showcasing the latest technology in manure handling, treatment and application, according to expo co-chair Robb Meinen.
“Manure Expo brings researchers, extension educators, government agency personnel, vendors, certified haulers and farmers together to exchange important information surrounding this critical area of animal production,” said Meinen, a senior extension associate in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences who specializes in nutrient and manure management.
Meinen noted that the 2022 expo’s theme, “The Application of Science and Technology (and Vice Versa),” is a clever way of highlighting an overarching objective of the event, which is designed to mesh agricultural production with environmental goals.
On Wednesday, July 13, the expo will feature two tour options. One tour will visit a dairy farm and a new poultry layer farm, both with cutting-edge manure-handling technologies. The large poultry farm is under construction and will not be populated until September; thus allowing a rare opportunity for an intimate glimpse of the most modern farm operations that otherwise might not be possible due to biosecurity concerns, such as those associated with highly pathogenic avian influenza.
The second tour will visit two stream locations to highlight restoration projects and demonstrate how experts evaluate stream health. After these tours, participants can attend the industry trade show, manure agitation demonstrations and educational sessions. Activities on Thursday, July 14, will include a trade show, educational seminars and field demonstrations.
“The event will feature experts from Pennsylvania and beyond, who will present the latest research and best practices,” Meinen said. “Many vendors will unveil new technologies or models at the Manure Expo, and side-by-side demonstrations will allow attendees to view and compare these technologies. Nowhere else can this audience ‘kick the tires’ in such a large forum.”
Manure nutrients typically enter water as a nonpoint source of pollution. This can occur from pastures and barnyards, as well as runoff from crop fields that receive manure applications. Because the Chesapeake Bay watershed is so large, even small losses from individual farms can add up to create a serious problem, Meinen explained.
According to a June 2022 statement from the Chesapeake Bay Program, watershed-wide pollution-reduction goals to be in place by 2025 are only 49% complete for nitrogen and 64% complete for phosphorus. Agriculture is a significant contributor of these nutrients.
“It’s important for producers to match the rate of manure nutrient application to crop uptake,” Meinen said. “Nutrient and manure management planning can go a long way toward addressing that problem. Under a nutrient management plan, manure application rates are calculated to allow maximum crop production while minimizing environmental risk. A critical component is moving beyond the paper plan to the actual implementation at the field level.”
Meinen noted that Manure Expo attendees can gain knowledge that will enhance execution of nutrient management plans at critical control points.
“Numerous factors can aid nutrient placement and retention,” he said. “Manure applicators must have both knowledge and skill to place the manure nutrients where they want them and in a manner that allows the nutrients to infiltrate the soil to reach plant roots. The equipment that the applicator utilizes can greatly influence nutrient utilization efficiency.”
Hosting the expo complements other Penn State research and extension programs. For instance, Penn State Extension spearheads educational efforts for the Pennsylvania Manure Hauler and Broker Certification Program. Created under a 2006 state law, the program educates commercial manure applicators on the importance of nutrient retention at the field level, covering topics such as nitrogen and phosphorous behavior in the environment, manure application setbacks from environmentally sensitive areas and manure-spreader calibration.
The Manure Expo is held in a different location each year, most recently in Ontario, Canada. The event last was hosted in Pennsylvania in 2015 and moves to Wisconsin in 2023.
“We had about 2,000 attendees at our 2015 event,” said Meinen, who is co-chairing the 2022 expo with Jennifer Bratthauar, of the Franklin County Conservation District. “It was widely considered a very successful and impactful event. We were recognized with the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence.”
He pointed out that Chambersburg is accessible to many dairy, poultry and livestock producers from the Chesapeake Bay region and beyond. “We fully expect to surpass 2,000 attendees,” he said. “Besides commercial haulers and producers, we really hope to see decision-makers from across the bay states. This expo will facilitate a connection between policy and practicality.”
More information about the North American Manure Expo is available online at https://www.manureexpo.ca/.