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MADISON – With a wet spring and delayed crop plantings this year, farmers need to plan ahead and use the tools at hand in case a late harvest and early freeze narrow the window for manure spreading this fall, advise officials with the departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
State officials warn field conditions in some parts of the state may parallel last year, which resulted in some farmers having frozen fields after corn and soybeans were off. If cold weather arrives early again, that could mean frozen ground conditions and a higher risk for manure runoff.
The Department of Natural Resources is contacting large farms with waste discharge permits and notifying them of their options, adding that livestock farms of any size need to be aware of potential problems.
The online Wisconsin Manure Management Advisory System offers the Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast (www.manureadvisorysystem.wi.gov), a tool all farmers can use to assess how high the risk of runoff is for their general location before they spread manure. The tool uses weather forecasts of rain or melting snow, along with soil moisture, slope, land cover and snow cover.
Farmers can also use nutrient management maps included in the system to evaluate which of their own fields are the least or most prone to runoff. The system is a joint effort of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and several federal and University of Wisconsin entities.
Farmers with nutrient management plans need to follow their plans and pay close attention to soil conditions, application rates and setbacks from streams, lakes or drinking water wells.
Farmers without nutrient management plans are also encouraged to contact crop consultants or county conservationists, who can help identify fields and practices that lower risk for runoff.
“These are the times when it really is advantageous for farmers to have nutrient management plans in place,” says Sara Walling, chief of the Nutrient Management and Water Quality Section at DATCP. “When you’ve developed a plan, you know the characteristics of your fields, where you can spread and when and how much. You often already have a relationship with a consultant who can advise you in these kinds of circumstances. It puts you that much ahead of the game.”
Contact information for county conservation offices is available at datcp.wi.gov, search for “conservation directory.” Information about response planning and prevention of manure spills. is on the DNR website.
Regardless of whether farmers have nutrient management in place, they need to have an emergency plan in case they have a runoff incident, say DNR and DATCP officials. Farmers need to know what steps to take if runoff or a spill occurs, who to call, how to contain it and how to clean it up.
If a spill or manure runoff occurs during spreading, farmers need to report the spill immediately by calling the DNR spill emergency hotline at 1-800-943-0003.