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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Enhanced Alfalfa Germplasm and Genomic Resources for Yield, Quality, and Environmental Protection

Location: Plant Science Research

Title: Manure's dark side

item Russelle, Michael

Submitted to: Trade Journal Publication
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/5/2013
Publication Date: 4/16/2013
Citation: Russelle, M.P. 2013. Manure's dark side. Forage Focus. Available at:

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Although manure is a beneficial resource for farmers, it can cause problems that arise because of what it contains. Manure application to forages may enhance the spread of pathogenic organisms. Many pathogens excreted in manure live for several months under field conditions. Ensiling forage greatly reduces pathogen populations, but it is better to apply manure beneath the soil surface and preferably to seed or grain crops, when disease organisms are present. Antibiotics administered to livestock can be excreted in manure, potentially promoting development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Composting or anaerobic digestion may help reduce transmission. Hormones and hormone mimics are natural compounds that also are present in manure. Extremely low concentrations of some hormones can disrupt animal development. Composting may decrease hormone concentration and activity. Manure constituents can move through the soil in deep cracks and earthworm burrows to shallow groundwater or tile drains, which deliver drainage to surface waters. Farmers and commercial manure applicators need to be aware of these and emerging problems with use of manures in order to reap greatest benefit from the manure and to reduce adverse impacts on the farm operation, the environment, and the public.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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