Merits of Manure Content Library


The right amount of animal manure in the right location can benefit crops, soil, and water resources.  However, too much manure or manure in the wrong place is an environmental concern.  A recent survey of attitudes from farmers and their advisors on the benefits and barriers for manure use indicates that there is widespread knowledge of manure value for cropping systems, but logistical and community barriers remain. The survey also found that all respondents rated peer-to-peer interactions as the most influential on their decision-making for these topics. Thus, more extension efforts should be focused in assisting AFO managers and advisors to communicate messages on the value of manure and strategies for overcoming barriers, among their specific networks. For example, knowledge of the relationship of manure and soil health benefits is low among some segments. Farmers and their advisors all have very low opinions and understanding of manure’s benefits to environmental quality. Helping farmers, educators, and advisors articulate among themselves and to their rural communities the water quality benefits of organic fertilizers when applied to only meet agronomic needs of the crop may need expanded investments. With these needs in mind a team from the Universities of Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa State, and the assistance of the North Central Region Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education program developed a library to provide educators and advisors with access to recommended resources that will assist in the discussion of manure’s benefits and challenges.

What Did We Do?

Consultation among the team identified the following categories of interest for readily accessible educational or outreach materials for manure impacts on:

    1. Soil health and soil quality
    2. Economics of production and yield
    3. Crop fertility
    4. Water quality
    5. On-farm research

And guidance to navigating barriers such as:

    1. Direct costs associated with manure use
    2. Odor and other community issues
    3. Agronomic challenges (such as imbalance nutrients)
    4. Regulations
    5. Logistical issues of application
    6. Using manure in specialty systems (such as organic production)

With the categories for materials established, the team conducted an initial survey of extant educational and outreach materials via general internet searches and review of content available through the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Community. The types of content thus assembled were varied: social media content, video, summaries of research, published extension and scientific journal articles, websites, and other content such as podcasts and decision support tools. All were included since it was intended that these resources be helpful for educators, producers, or others to converse with their own networks easily and confidently on the manure topics identified. The team anticipated that users could use the library to expand their social media activity, and thus their communication networks, or to prepare more confidently to discuss manure via a local radio presentation or discussion with a county board. Or even to add an article to local print media or a blog or personal website. All items included in the library were free to repurpose (with attribution) in local outlets or personal sites.

After consultation, the library was built using Airtable ™, a platform to create low-code databases, tools, or other apps. This platform allows the team to internally build a flexible database of content which can be sorted easily into pre-set categories (for example, topics of specific seasonal relevant), and arrange content into easily perused views to improve the user experience on a platform that could be easily embedded into existing team sites, such as (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The user interface for the merits of manure library, several such sorted views are embedded on the LPELC website for audience exploration by topic, media type, or seasonal relevance. Within each view individual entries can be further searched or sorted to further narrow exploration.

Each entry (Figure 2) in the library has an individual entry card, which includes keywords and text descriptions to improve searchability as well as a downloadable file, or links to the resource where appropriate, and a short example of how this material could be shared in the user’s social media network (recommended twitter text). The team intended to provide library users with not only the educational content, but also the means to improve their own in-network communication on manure topics. Accordingly, when posting to social media, hashtags, mentions and links to other content help (a) reach users who are following a specific topic (e.g., #manure), (b) recognize someone related to the post (e.g., @TheManureLady) and (c) direct users to more content related to the graphic (e.g., URL to online article). For our content library, each item is accompanied by recommended text that can be copied and pasted into the post of a social media engine if desired.

Figure 2. A single-entry page for the library.

What Have We Learned?

Since its launch in 2021 the library has had 343 unique users, average time that each user spends interacting with the library is 129 seconds, a solid interaction time for a website – industry standard is 120-180 seconds. However, we do not have any measure for how time spent on the library page is transformed into use of the library content. It is evident that more work is needed to improve awareness of the tool among audiences of interest. To this end, the team decided to develop a recognizable brand for library materials which might help other potential users to find their way to the site (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Library logo.

Future Plans

Library administrators continue to look for ways to improve the library content, user experience, and awareness of the tool among potential users. An overview of content, accessibility, re-purposing, and submission of relevant material will be shared to publicize the resource, encourage utilization of available materials, and invite submissions of new content relevant to the manure management community.


Amy Schmidt, Associate Professor, University of Nebraska

Corresponding author email address

Additional authors

Leslie Johnson, Associate Extension Educator, Mara Zelt, Schmidt Lab Project Director, Amber Patterson, Schmidt Lab Media Communications Specialist, and Rick Koelsch, Professor Emeritus, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Erin Cortus, Associate Professor, and Melissa Wilson, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota; and Dan Andersen, Associate Professor, Iowa State University

Additional Information

The full library is accessible at


This product was assembled with financial assistance from the North Central Region Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education program.  NCR-SARE is one of four regional offices that run the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, a nationwide grants and education program to advance sustainable innovation to American agriculture.

Economics of Nitrogen Sources and Rates in a Long Term Cropping System


The main goal of the study is to determine the singular or combined effects of crop rotation, tillage system, N fertility levels and sources on crop grain and biomass production, crop diseases, and soil attributes (nitrogen, phosphorus, organic matter and pH). Secondly, our goal is to assess the economics of some of the crops grown in the experimental area during the period of time from 2008-2014. The results presented in this summary show that composted manure can replace commercial fertilizer applications in a crop rotation system, maintaining the same level of yields and increasing profits during a 7-year period. Related: Manure value & economics

What did we do?

In 1987, a long-term cropping system study was initiated at the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Carrington Research Extension Center (CREC). The study takes place on approximately 40 acres and consists of cycles of three, 4-year crop rotations with three replicates. The base rotation is hard red spring wheat (HRSW) – sunflower – barley – soybean. Other rotations are composed of HRSW – field pea – corn – soybean and HRSW – corn – soybean – canola. Each crop within each rotation is planted every year. Tillage treatments (conventional tillage-CT, minimum tillage-MT and no-tillage-NT) are imposed along the north-south direction and fertility treatments (nitrogen rates and sources) are imposed along the east-west direction. Nitrogen sources are urea (applied each spring to non-leguminous crop plots at 0, 50, or 100 lbs of N/ac) and composted beef feedlot manure (applied once in the spring at a rate of 200 lbs of N/ac on the first year of each cycle).

The crops (barley, corn, field peas, soybean and HRSW) and period of time (from 2008 to 2014) were selected based on data available to compute production costs (tillage, fertilizer, seeds, chemicals, seeding, combining, overhead and land) and gross return (crop yields and prices). Due to a lack of protein data, barley and HRSW from 2008 were not included in the calculations. The economics were calculated based on two scenarios for the composted manure treatment: Scenario 1 (CompSCN 1) – the producer owns the compost and the only cost associated with it is the application cost; Scenario 2 (CompSCN 2) – the producer pays for each unit of N in the compost the same price paid per unit of N as commercial fertilizer. Barley was graded according to its protein content as feed (protein >12%) or malting barley (protein ≤12%). For HRSW, we used an average discount of $0.08/bu for each 1/5% of protein lower than 14% across all years.

What have we learned?

Figure 1. Average (2008-2014; 2009-2014 for barley and HRSW) yield3 (left) and net income (right) for crops in a long term cropping system at the NDSU Carrington REC, Carrington, ND. 0,50, and 100 N represent, respectively, 0, 50 and 100 lbs of N/ac. COMP

Figure 1. Average (2008-2014; 2009-2014 for barley and HRSW) yield3 (left) and net income (right) for crops in a long term cropping system at the NDSU Carrington REC, Carrington, ND. 0,50, and 100 N represent, respectively, 0, 50 and 100 lbs of N/ac. COMP/MAN= composted manure. MT= minimum tillage; NT= no tillage; CT= conventional tillage. CompSC1 and CompSC2 are compost manure scenarios 1 and 2, respectively. Averages followed by the same letter are not significantly different (Tukey Test, p=0.05). 1 Protein content: >12%= feed barley, <=12%= malting barley. 2 Wheat protein discount= $0.08/bu per 1/5 below 14%. 3 Provisional data.

Barley and corn yields were increased by nitrogen application, but there was no response to either N rates or source across the tillage systems (Figure 1). The field pea and soybean yield differences between the sources of N (Figure 1) was likely due to composted manure application every four years (2007 and 2011) regardless of the crop growing on those plots, while N fertilizer is applied only to non-leguminous crops. The composted manure (COMP/MAN) treatment produced similar HRSW yields to the highest N rate (100 lbs N/ac) treatment under no-till and conventional tillage and it was out yielded by the same treatment under minimum tillage.

The CompSC1 was the most profitable treatment across the tillage systems for the majority of the crops, except for HRSW. Similar results were seen even when the compost was paid for based on its N content (CompSC2). The lower income for barley with 100 lbs N/ac was due to the high protein in the kernel (feed barley=lower selling price). For HRSW, the CompSC1 treatment showed lower net income than the highest N rate under minimum tillage and higher net income under the other two tillage systems, while the CompSC2 treatment showed much lower income than the other N treatments. The higher income when using composted manure is due to both similar yields and lower production cost when using that product in comparison with the other N treatments. Protein content in HRSW was lower when using composted manure, which resulted in large protein discounts, which were over $50/ac in some cases.

Future Plans

In the future, we would like to investigate strategies for N application during the wheat growing season to boost protein content and net income per acre in areas fertilized with fresh feedlot manure.


Paulo Flores, Nutrient Management Specialist at NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center,

Ezra Aberle, Research Specialist – Crop Systems at NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center

Additional information

For more information about the field research conducted on the long term cropping system, described on this summary, you are welcomed to contact Ezra Aberle ( at the Carrington Research Extension Center (CREC, Phone: 701.652.2951). For more information about this summary please contact Paulo Flores ( at the CREC.

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