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University of Minnesota Extension

Tips to reduce water quality issues

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Minnesotans know how precious clean surface and groundwater is to recreation and wildlife habitat in the state. Access to clean water is something that many take for granted, but protecting it from harm needs to be a top priority. Pollution from towns and farms harm both surface and groundwater. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and pathogens are the most common water pollutants from manure on farms.


Tips to reduce water quality impacts of manure:

Though farms are not the only source of water contamination, farmers still have the responsibility to do their part in protecting water quality. This list of tips aims to help farmers manage their manure to reduce the amount of pollutants leaving their farm or field.

  1. Manage runoff and leaching from stockpiled manure. Stacking solid manure on a concrete pad will reduce leaching of nutrients through the soil. Also, placing the stockpile in an open-sided shed, on a level surface, and above the seasonal high-water table will reduce runoff risk. A catch basin can also be placed nearby to hold any runoff before it reaches a waterway.
  2. Manage runoff and leaching from open lots. Catch basins and grass buffer strips can be used to hold and filter runoff from open lots before it reaches a waterway.
  3. Manage leaching from storage pits. Impermeable concrete, synthetic, or clay soil liners should be used in manure pits to keep nutrients from leaching downward. Pits should also be monitored closely and pumped before overflowing.
  4. Use clean-water diversion system. Berms, ditches, and gutters can be used to divert upslope and rain water from areas with manure so that it does not carry nutrients and pathogens to waterways.
  5. Use correct manure application techniques on fields. Apply nutrients only as needed in accordance with the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s guidelines. Whenever possible, incorporate manure into the soil to reduce risk of surface runoff. Do not apply on saturated or frozen soils as this will increase runoff.

Chryseis Modderman, Extension Educator

Reviewed in 2018

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