Agriculture Forum: Enhancing environmental quality
In this six-part series, we are discovering what sustainability on Michigan farms means, looking at examples of how farms are demonstrating that sustainability, and how the Michigan State University Extension is working with producers to become even more sustainable.
As a reminder, the definition that is used by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program for sustainable agriculture is: “Sustainable agriculture is defined as an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term: satisfy human food and fiber needs, enhance environmental quality and the natural resources base upon which the agricultural economy depends, make the most efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls, sustain the economic viability of farm operations, enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.” This third article’s specific topic is “Enhancing environmental quality and the natural resources base upon which the agricultural economy depends.” Although enhancing our environmental quality and natural resource base may seem difficult, it nonetheless is critical for agriculture and for our communities that rely on the food that agriculture produces.
But without an enhanced environmental quality and natural resource base, those gains will be short lived.
Michigan farmers continue to make improvements in this area, including being involved in voluntary programs such as the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP).
So what does MSU Extension do to help support sustainability in this area of “Enhancing environmental quality and the natural resources base upon which the agricultural economy depends?” One example is how MSU Extension is working with farms to fully account for the nutrients that manure brings to the soil, and also the utilizing those nutrients to the greatest benefit of crops through proper timing of spreading.
When is the best time to spread manure for optimal crop production and minimize environmental losses?
The right timing depends on the manure-handling system, cropping system, field conditions, weather forecasts, time and labor available, volume of manure in the pit and many other factors.
The best answer is to know the risk factors during the time of manure application and minimize those risks while optimizing crop production with those additional manure nutrients.
To help solve this complex scenario, a new tool is available for Michigan livestock producers to use when making decisions on when and where to spread manure.
The Michigan State University EnviroImpact Tool is part of the Michigan Manure Management Advisory System that was been developed through a partnership between National Weather Service/NOAA, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP), MSU Institute of Water Research, Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension.