Nutrient Management on farms is a balancing act between how much manure needs to be spread and how many nutrients crop fields need. We work with dairy farmers throughout the state to address the challenge of managing nutrient distribution on their fields through research and outreach, innovative technology, and by fostering collaborative partnerships.
The Canaan Valley Agricultural Cooperative Waste Management Program formed in 1995 when Peter Jacquier of Laurelbrook Farm received a Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant. Jacquier worked with four other farmers to organize the cooperative. The farms improved manure management and disposal practices and adapted new technologies on their farming operations. Extension guides manure digester discussions, and assists with manure management through data collection, soil testing, and ongoing research using drones and other types of innovation.
Dairy farmers in the cooperative, and other areas of the state, are developing strategies for anaerobic digestion and to deal with phosphorus accumulation in farm soils as a result of the grant.
Methane digesters reduce odor and make farms more neighbor friendly. Digesters are expensive and need off farm food waste to help make the system profitable.
Some digester companies include food waste tipping fees in the economic analysis, but not the increases in manure hauling costs to dispose of the added digestate. Farms need accurate hauling cost numbers to include in the economic analysis of the digesters to determine overall profitability of these projects. Extension continues to facilitate discussions with Canaan dairy farmers and others to address these challenges.
Article by Richard Meinert