Not your father’s manure

by Caroline Brown

An AP story from a couple of days ago discussed how new technology could possibly be used to kill bacteria in manure before it's spread on the fields, which reduces the pungent smell and most importantly, prevents water pollution

The technology is being promoted by the University of Vermont and Green Mountain Power.

The technology, being sold by a Colchester businessman, uses electricity to kill disease-causing bacteria in liquid manure. That nearly eliminates the odor from the manure by removing 20 percent or more of its phosphorous.

Manure is full of nitrogen and phosphorus, two nutrients that crops need. But the excess nitrogen and phosphorus that isn't used by crops stays in the soil and is washed by rain and watering into waterways. This runoff ends up in lakes and eventually the ocean, where it causes excess algae to grow. A high amount of algal bloom blocks sunlight from the bottom of lakes and oceans, which means that other plants and fish can no longer live there.

It's an interesting technology to keep an eye on if it really works, but as its inventor said:

"I always start by telling people this is not a silver bullet. It will not eliminate water pollution from farm runoff, but it's one more layer of technology to address the problem," said Buzz Hoerr of Colchester, president of ElectroCell Technologies.

Graphic courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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2 Comments to “Not your father’s manure”

  1. Last year I did a paper and presentation on a business case about Smithfield’s hog farms. Their main problem was the smell from the hog waste. In North Carolina, there are sections where the hog farms are so condensed that people could smell the waste 5 miles away from the “lagoons.” We couldn’t use any outside resources to suggest solutions, so we suggested that they produce their own fertilizer near the farm sites. Funny how much agricultural science applies to my general business classes.

  2. Hi Matt…your paper sounds interesting. I’m originally from NC and I know about that smell. Those lagoons are a horrible health hazard. You probably know this from your research, but when Hurricane Floyd blew through several years ago, the lagoons burst and created a terrible public health hazard. Smithfield Foods is the largest producer and the WORST. A complete disgrace.

    Anyway, funny that you commented, I’m making your stirfry again tonight…the one with the onions+broccoli, olive oil, garlic, etc. 🙂

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