Wisconsin Manure Irrigation Workgroup to release report, hold webinar on April 14

April 7, 2016 By Nicole Miller

A UW–Madison/UW-Extension-led workgroup tasked with assessing manure irrigation practices will share its findings during a webinar on Thursday, April 14. Immediately following the webinar, the workgroup’s final report will be made available online at http://fyi.uwex.edu/manureirrigation/.

Reporters are invited to attend and participate in the April 14 webinar. Please note that advance copies of the report will not be provided. Likewise, advance interviews with webinar speakers will not be granted.

The webinar will run from noon to 1:15 p.m., with approximately 45 minutes for presentations by workgroup members, followed by 30 minutes for questions submitted by webinar attendees through the webinar platform. To watch the webinar, attendees must have computer access and register in advance through the Wisconsin Manure Irrigation Workgroup website: http://fyi.uwex.edu/manureirrigation/. For those not able to attend during this time, a recording of the webinar will be uploaded to the workgroup website.

The webinar speakers are:

Ken Genskow, associate professor and chair of the UW–Madison Department of Urban and Regional Planning. Genskow is chair of the Wisconsin Manure Irrigation Workgroup and co-editor of the report. He is also a UW-Extension water resources planning specialist and director of the UW-Extension Natural Resources Program in the Environmental Resources Center.

Becky Larson, UW–Madison assistant professor and UW-Extension biological waste specialist in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering. Larson is a workgroup member and co-editor of the report.

Mark Borchardt, microbiologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service. Borchardt is a workgroup member and led a study to measure pathogens and other microbes spread through the air via manure irrigation. He works in the USDA-ARS’s Environmental Integrated Dairy Management Research Unit, located at the UW–Madison Marshfield Agricultural Research Station.

After the webinar is over, reporters are welcome to contact Ken Genskow at kgenskow@wisc.edu or (608) 890-0673, or Becky Larson at rebecca.larson@wisc.edu or (608) 890-3171, to ask questions about the workgroup and the report.

To give interested citizens an opportunity to ask questions after reading the full report, a follow-up webinar will be held the week of May 16. Details will be shared in a subsequent news advisory.

Background on the workgroup and the report

The Wisconsin Manure Irrigation Workgroup, which is composed of scientists, public health specialists, state agency experts, farmers, conservationists and others, was convened in 2013 by UW–Madison and UW-Extension at the request of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The group was charged with reviewing the potential advantages and concerns associated with manure irrigation — the practice of applying livestock manure to fields using irrigation equipment — and sharing their findings, responses and recommendations.

The group, which gathered citizen input early on to help guide its efforts, has compiled its findings into a technical report, “Considerations for the Use of Manure Irrigation Practices.” The 80-plus-page document is designed to serve as a resource for citizens and elected officials as they make decisions about manure irrigation in their communities. It is important to note that the workgroup has no formal authority, and the report does not establish policy on manure irrigation.

The report addresses concerns about manure irrigation identified through citizen input, including: water quality, air quality, pathogen transport, droplet drift, and odor. It also explores the primary benefits associated with the practice, including potential reductions in manure runoff, soil compaction and road use associated with manure application.

The report also includes findings of a new research study, “Airborne Pathogens from Dairy Manure Aerial Irrigation and the Human Health Risk,” which is the first in-the-field study to measure pathogens and other microbes spread through the air via manure irrigation and to use those measures to calculate a public health risk. The findings of this research project, which was conducted in tandem with — but independently from — the workgroup’s efforts, helped inform the workgroup’s responses and recommendations.