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Applying Manure When the Soil Is Frozen or Snow-covered

It’s been a wet fall in many parts of the state and now winter has come early. Many producers face the difficult task of getting manure land applied to avoid overflowing storages. While we do not generally recommend applying manure to frozen or snow-covered soils due to runoff risks, sometimes there is no other option. Here are some possible things you can do to minimize the risks:

  • For liquid manure, empty your storage enough to make it through the winter then apply the rest in spring. This will allow you to apply manure at lower rates in each field.
  • Find fields that are level and have crop residue.
  • Keep a distance from sensitive features. When you cannot incorporate because of winter conditions, regulations state you need a 300 foot setback from streams, lakes, drainage ditches, and open tile intakes.
  • Pay attention to weather and field conditions. Especially avoid surface manure applications when:
    • There are 2 inches of snow, or more, and the weather forecast predicts temperatures to go higher than 40°F in the next 24 hours
    • The ground is frozen and/or snow covered and the weather forecast predicts a 50% chance of 0.25 inches, or more, of rain in the next 24 hours
    • Check out the Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast to help make these decisions.

In a recent news release, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) lists further recommendations:

  • Review your manure management plan to determine which fields are the most suitable for winter applications
  • Refer to your state or local permit for specific details on land application restrictions.
  • When in doubt about restrictions, contact your MPCA or county feedlot official with questions. Visit MPCA’s website for contact information
  • Monitor field edges to verify that manure runoff is not occurring. If runoff is occurring, report to the Minnesota Duty Officer at 800-422-0798.

Remember that state and local manure application requirements may be different depending on feedlot size, permit status, and local laws. For more information from the MPCA, check out their “Land application of manure” webpage:

By: Melissa Wilson, Extension Specialist

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Support for this project was provided in part by the Agricultural Fertilizer Research & Education Council (AFREC).

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