LANSING — Spreading manure in the winter can be risky due to the possibility of water contamination. Producers should have available storage to contain their winter production of manure. However, this is not practical on many farms. In those instances, producers are encouraged to evaluate their fields using the Manure Application Risk Index (MARI), to find the fields most suitable for application on the frozen or snow-covered ground. A MARI calculation indicates the fields which are off-limits for winter manure application. In evaluating options, producers should remember that liquid manures pose a greater risk of offsite movement into surface water than dry, or bedded pack manures.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has guidelines for winter manure applications outlined in the Manure Management and Utilization section of the Right to Farm Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs).
The GAAMPS: Manure Management and Utilization, January 2017 guidelines are as follows:
Application of manure to frozen or snow-covered soils should be avoided, but where necessary,
- Solid manures should only be applied to areas where slopes are six percent or less.
- Liquid manures should only be applied to soils where slopes are three percent or less.
In either situation, provisions must be made to control runoff and erosion with soil and water conservation practices, such as vegetative buffer strips between surface waters and soils where manure is applied.
Permitted Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations are also required to have a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP), which includes a MARI for all fields where manure will be applied on the frozen or snow-covered ground. The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s MARI is a predictive tool that determines the relative risk of spreading manure. The index allows a producer to evaluate fields based on distance to water, cover type, runoff control, percent of slope, and precipitation. This assessment is used as part of a CNMP to identify field and cropping conditions when winter manure applications on frozen and/or snow-covered ground are determined to be very low, low, medium or high risk. Only those fields that are very low or low-risk pass MARI.
Producers can work with a local MAEAP technician to run these tools on their field as part of becoming MAEAP verified. This is a free (no charge) and confidential process.
To find your local technician click here.
— Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program
For more news from Michigan, click here.