Development of tools for optimising the joint management of livestock manure and the improvement of agricultural fertilisation, crop quality, and environmental protection
What was the challenge/ problem addressed? Why is it important for the partnership to solve the problem?
Both economic and environmental aspects demand for innovative tools and strategies to achieve optimisation of livestock manure management and agricultural fertilization. Therefore, in this project several cooperatives cooperated in order to:
- To achieve joint management of manure and fertilisation in a careful and sustainable manner.
- To recover livestock manure for its fertiliser content and reduce its environmental impact.
- To improve the technological management tools available and adapt them to the needs of the participating cooperatives.
How did you solve the problem? (Or if your practical case is still in progress how are you solving the problem?)
Various cross-cutting measures and pilot experiences have been carried out, in a joint management framework based on four fundamental areas of improvement:
- Improving slurry application through fertilisation planning. Soil analyses, use of conductivity meters, precision machinery, GPS, etc.
- Improving management logistics: optimisation of transport routes, registering applications, etc., by means of computer tools to facilitate tasks and to obtain traceability of the applications on the plot.
- Improving cereal quality: increasing protein through fertilisation.
- Reduced environmental impact.
What are the success factors in solving the problem?
It has been possible to verify the differences and advantages in management optimisation, with real-time monitoring, control of the vehicle’s location, routes, timetables, number of operations per loading and unloading point, total kilometres travelled, etc. All this information recorded in the computer application has made it possible to generate the livestock manure management book (LGDR, for its Catalan initials), as well as the fertilisation plans more quickly and accurately.
Unexpected failures, if any
Through the demonstration plots, improvements to be implemented in the individual and joint agricultural management of livestock manure, mainly slurry, have been identified: the use of hose equipment to apply liquid manure; the use of conductivity meters to estimate the nutrient content of slurry; the application of liquid manure in crop cover; the adequacy of the dose of nutrients to be applied to crops. The tools and management model will need to be slightly adapted to fit the specific needs for each of these situations.
The use of agronomic tools and criteria to plan fertiliser applications to crops should prevail over the use of criteria of maximum doses allowed by legislation, which is not always the case.
The general conclusion derived from the activities carried out is that the livestock farming sector must evolve and innovate in order to carry out the correct individual or joint management (and treatment) of manure and to adapt to the new regulations, especially those farms located in vulnerable areas.
Other recently published regulations, such as the regulation on fertilisers, put an end to the waste status of manure and open the door to greater agronomic recovery of manure.
There are, therefore, useful tools that the sector can apply to increase its economic and environmental sustainability, complying with the established limits and those that could be established in relation to aspects such as the minimisation of emissions during storage.
What role does the advisor or advisory service play within the practical case?
They were the motor behind the project. With new legislation aiming at reducing nitrate pollution from farms coming up, advisors in cooperation with an applied research center (IRTA-Mas Badia) started this project to test and demonstrate ready-to-use technologies relatively unknown by farmers. Some of the technologies tested have in the meantime become compulsory.
Some of the partners participating in the project have continued cooperating in another project building on this one.
Can your approach be transferred and/or adapted for other innovation challenges and regions?
Estimated transferability on a scale from 1 to 5
(where 1 is easy and 5 very difficult)
For sharing the experience on the good practice, please contact Màrius Simon (marius.simon[at]fcac.coop)