Pathways for Effective Manure Nutriment Management Information Sharing and Education Between Agriculture Professionals: A South Dakota Pilot Test

Why Look at Barriers in Nutrient Management Information Flow?


The issue of manure nutrient management has been the subject of controversy and new policies in recent years as the non-point source discharge of nutrients and bacteria is substantial if manure is not managed properly. Unfortunately, there are barriers between organizations and individuals that prevent the flow of important, timely information between audience types and limits the impact and usefulness of research results. These barriers may be in the form of institutional language differences, job descriptions, or a mismatch between information outputs and inputs.

What did we do?

A national team of researchers, Extension specialists, consultants and government staff developed a survey to quantify the role, programming, and barriers to information flow between organizations and individuals regarding manure nutrient management. The electronic survey was disseminated via cooperating agencies, organizations and personal contacts to technical service providers, producers, university personnel, regulatory personnel, private sales or service enterprises and other professionals who contribute to manure nutrient management in South Dakota. Respondents were asked to indicate the relevance of information sources (inputs), information products (outputs) and collaborators (links), as well as barriers to their use. The relevance selections were transformed into scalar data and an analysis of variance was performed on the average relevance scores to test for differences based on input/output/link type and organization type.

What have we learned?

There were 139 surveys started, and 80 surveys completed. Data from partially completed surveys were, however, included in the analysis. The main categories of self-identified respondents were NRCS (n=36), Producers (n=29), University personnel (n=15) and Regulatory personnel (n=9). The remaining categories respondents were grouped into an Other category (n=22). The average relevance score for each of the information sources, information products and collaborations listed in the survey were consistent (no significant difference between organization types). As sources of information, consultation, eXtension and field days were ranked most relevant, with classroom and social media being least relevant. Similarly, consultation, field days and eXtension were ranked the most relevant means of sharing information; social media was ranked least relevant. Barriers to information sources and products were specific to the activity or product. The select ion “No barriers to use” was not an indicator of relevance. All organization types deemed producers the most relevant collaborator, followed by state, university and federal agencies.

Future Plans

The South Dakota-based survey was a pilot test for a nationwide survey being conducted in 2015. From feedback and data review, the survey has been refined and shortened to elicit the key input, output and collaborator data. With the national data in hand later in 2015, the project team looks forward to linking information producers and users in effective pathways for manure nutrient management information transmission, and ultimately, adoption.


Erin Cortus, Assistant Professor and Environmental Quality Engineer at South Dakota State University

Nichole Embertson, Nutrient Management Specialist, Sustainable Livestock Production Program, Whatcom Conservation District; Jeffrey Jacquet, Assistant Professor, Sociology and Rural Studies, South Dakota State University

Additional information

Anyone interested in participating on the Pathways Project team are invited to contact Erin Cortus ( or Nichole Embertson (


The nationwide team who contribute to and guide the Pathways project are gratefully acknowledged. Funding provided through the South Dakota SARE Mini-Grant Program supported data collection and analysis for the survey pilot test.

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