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'Manure Happens'- Department of Agriculture aims to educate public on uses of manure (copy)

BALTIMORE COUNTY—Keeping manure away from streams is a top priority for Maryland farmers. Today’s farmers use the latest science to guide when, where, and how much manure to use as a crop fertilizer.

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That’s why this spring, you’ll see — and smell — manure being hauled from chicken farms to other types of farms and businesses that can safely recycle this valuable resource without harming the Chesapeake Bay.

It turns out, chicken manure not only makes a great fertilizer — it actually builds healthy soils. The organic matter in manure helps the soil store nutrients, soak up water, and ward off erosion.

It even promotes the growth of beneficial organisms that make the soil more productive. To protect nearby waterways, farmers follow strict environmental rules when applying manure. After all, healthy soil and clean water go hand in hand.

It also helps to know which way the wind is blowing when farmers are spreading manure. Maryland farmers store manure in the winter to protect against runoff.

According to the Maryland Department of Agriculture, March 1 is the earliest farmers can recycle manure as a natural crop fertilizer and soil conditioner. Protecting streams and reducing odors are top priorities.

Farmers use special equipment to work manure into the soil while planting windbreaks and buffers to trap dust and sediment. This helps keep runoff out of streams — and odors away from noses.

In addition to these manure facts and tips, the Maryland Department of Agriculture has launched its 2020 Manure Happens public education campaign to teach Marylanders how and why farmers recycle manure as a natural crop fertilizer and soil conditioner.

The 2020 campaign focuses on best management practices used to prevent runoff and control odors when spreading manure, and the science behind nutrient management. The ads will run in local newspapers, on websites, and on social media throughout March.

“Today’s educated consumers are passionate about where their food comes from and how it is produced,” said Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joseph Bartenfelder.

“The Manure Happens campaign helps Marylanders understand why farmers use manure as a crop fertilizer and how the nutrient management practices farmers follow protect the health of nearby waterways. As our hard working Maryland farmers start to prepare their fields for spring planting, let us recognize all they are doing to improve the health of their soil and the Chesapeake Bay.”

Maryland farmers are required to follow nutrient management plans when fertilizing crops and managing animal manure. These science-based plans specify how much fertilizer, manure, or other nutrient sources may be safely applied to crops to achieve yields and prevent excess nutrients from impacting waterways.

Farmers are prohibited from spreading manure on their fields in winter or when the ground is frozen. March 1 was the first opportunity for most farmers to recycle manure generated over the winter as a crop fertilizer and soil conditioner.

To further protect water resources, Maryland’s Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) regulations are helping farmers protect local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay from phosphorus runoff.

The public education ads direct viewers to the department’s Manure Happens website. In addition to providing citizens with information on how farmers recycle manure resources, the website offers resources for farmers who use commercial fertilizers and want to switch to manure, and to farmers who already use manure to build healthy soils.

The page provides links to important farmer resources including the department’s new and improved grants to haul poultry manure, grants to “inject” liquid manure below the soil surface to reduce odors and protect against runoff, tax credits, nutrient management regulations, technical guidance, and scientific research on the benefits of manure as a crop fertilizer and soil conditioner.

The department’s 2020 education campaign includes three ads with different themes. The Attitude is Everything ad focuses on ways farmers work to protect local streams and reduce odors when spreading manure.

The Go the Distance ad highlights the science behind managing poultry manure and its nutrients. In addition, the campaign’s namesake ad, Manure Happens, has been updated. To see all of the department’s manure education ads over the years, visit the Manure Happens website.

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