It has already been established that manure is a valuable fertilizer source; not just a byproduct that we are forced to dispose of. However, nutrient values of manure vary greatly depending on the type of livestock, forage, water mixing, and stirring practice used. Maximizing the nutrients manure has to offer is important to us. That is why we are working to bring you realtime spreading analysis with NIR technology.
In the state of Iowa, it is required to have slurries sampled for nutrient content. Although these tests accurately measure the nutrients in the manure sampled, they only represent 1 quart out of an average 375,000-gallon pit. This leaves room for nutrient levels to vary as a pit is emptied.
Our biggest challenge on this journey has been finding a way to continuously measure nutrients so precise application rates can be prescribed. To resolve this, we have been testing near-infrared (NIR) sensors like the technology used on forage harvesters. As a spreader goes across the field, the NIR sensor is evaluating nutrient content at a rate of 1 reading every 20 milliseconds.
Specifically, the NIR sensor measures dry matter, total nitrogen, ammonium, phosphorus and potassium levels. This real-time data, in conjunction with soil sample results, directs the spreader to apply the appropriate rate at a specific point in the field.
Although the NIR sensor is still in the testing phase, we are excited about the future impact it can have on manure application. As our industry strives for improved management practices, variable rating manure will not only benefit our row crops but our environment as well. As this product continues to advance, we will keep you updated on its journey.