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Precise Manure Application Better for Environment

By Dawn Johnson
June 17, 1998

A satellite orbiting the Earth may help farmers do a better job of spreading livestock manure and hitting the intended target, U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists report.

Agricultural Research Service scientists are studying new ways to boost yields by getting nutrients in the right place while keeping them out of groundwater. Using Global Positioning Systems (GPS), scientists at the ARS Soil and Water Conservation Research Unit at Lincoln, Neb., have been studying site-specific livestock manure applications. Putting manure to work fertilizing cropland could reduce farmers' reliance on commercial fertilizers--good news for the environment.

GPS uses computers onboard farm equipment and satellite information to create a grid or map of a particular field. Farmers can plug in data such as crop yields to evaluate soil fertility and determine where to target manure applications. Commercial fertilizers are uniformly mixed and applied. Livestock manure contains the same nutrients as commercial fertilizers, but may have varying rates of nitrogen.

A complete story on GPS-linked manure application is found in the June 1998 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. A more detailed story is available on the World Wide Web at:


Scientific contact: Jim Schepers, Soil and Water Conservation Research Unit, Lincoln, NE, phone (402)-472-1513, fax (402) 441-5254,

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