University of Idaho Sustainable Agriculture project seeks to create a bioeconomy from dairy byproducts to increase nutrient recycling


This Sustainable Agriculture Systems project is called “Idaho Sustainable Agriculture Initiative for Dairy (ISAID).” Its main purpose is to create a bioeconomy around dairy manure and its byproducts, generating a circular use and economy of nutrients (Figure 1). Idaho is currently the third largest milk-producing state in the USA (USDA-NASS, 2021). Idaho dairy farms typically operate as confined operations that concentrate a significant amount of manure and nutrients in relatively small areas. Over the years, this situation has increased the concentration of nutrients in farms surrounding dairies. Meanwhile, distant farms may not benefit from using those nutrients (Leytem, et al. 2021). Except for its exceptional fertilizer and soil amendment value (USEPA, 2015), dairy manure is seen as a nuisance that needs to be managed well. Manure handling and use generate expenses for the producers and may be a nuisance for the neighboring communities and a potential environmental risk for the areas surrounding dairy production (Berg, et al. 2017; Moore and Ippolito, 2009; Sheffield, et al. 2008). This multidisciplinary project aims to create bioproducts from manure to significantly change the nutrient balance and the economic impact for producers in the region. Implementing the various strategies included in the project will help export nutrients to in-need areas within the region or outside the watershed altogether. In addition, increased income from manure processing would allow for better management and reduction of overall costs associated with nutrient management in the region.  The ISAID project includes three main areas that are integrated to generate the highest impact possible. Research, Extension, and Education are the distinctive areas of work. Still, these areas don’t work as silos, having a lot of integration to get the most of everybody’s work in the project.

What Did We Do?

Figure 1. Dairy bioeconomy

A group of 25 researchers in diverse areas of expertise obtained a USDA-NIFA Sustainable Agricultural Systems grant to conduct long-term (five years or more) projects. On the research side, the multifaceted studies that are under development include: use of amendments in manure composting to increase compost quality and value, reducing air emissions; nutrients’ extraction from various fractions of manure treatment to concentrate specific nutrients for individual commercialization (including nitrogen, phosphorous, and carbon); generation of hydrochar and biochar from dairy manure; bio-plastics production; cover crops use to increase nutrient extraction and soil health; fine-tuning fertilizer guides for crops using manure, compost, and other bioproducts. Analysis of each product’s economic and social impact separately and as a multi-prong approach. The extension component includes outreach to livestock and crop producers, local authorities, and communities to communicate the applicability of researched technologies and techniques, their impacts, benefits and challenges. The development of programs to train producers, allied industry, their workforce government employees on the diverse applications resulting from the project. The education component includes the participation of graduate and undergraduate students in all facets of the project and the development of educational programs for undergraduate and graduate students on topics associated with manure and nutrient management, bioeconomy, and on-farm application and management of these technologies and techniques.

What Have We Learned?

This project just finished the first of its five years; most of the projects are in the inception phase. We are generating baseline data and linking together diverse processes to determine possible interactions and needed extension and instructional needs. The corresponding poster includes a detailed list of projects associated with the grant, their corresponding principal investigators, and any recent advances. Some examples of project outcomes include the Water Machine that extracts phosphorous from waters with high nutrient content. Ammonia extraction from dairy wastewater. Enhanced composting using zeolites, pumice, biochar, and balanced carbon. Cover crops and corn silage as dual and double cropping. Hydrochar production from dairy manure and bioplastics. We are working on obtaining stakeholders’ input through diverse methods to help assess the needs of the industry and communities and guide the evolution of the research, extension, and education processes.

Future Plans

The project will continue to gather data and evolve. Collaborations and graduate student inquiries about inclusion in some projects are welcomed. We will offer updates at various conferences, including the next Waste to Worth.


Mario E. de Haro Martí, Extension Educator, University of Idaho Extension, Central District

Corresponding author email address

Additional authors

Mireille Chahine, Extension Dairy Specialist, Department of Animal, Veterinary and Food Science, University of Idaho

Linda Schott, Extension Nutrient and Waste Management Specialist,  Department of Soil and Water Systems, University of Idaho

Additional Information

ISAID Website:




This ISAID project is supported by USDA-NIFA SAS award #2020-69012-31


Berg, M., Meehan, M., and Scherer T. 2017. Environmental Implications of Excess Fertilizer and Manure on Water Quality. NM1281.

Leytem, A. B., Williams, P., Zuidema, S., Martinez, A., Chong, Y. L., Vincent, A., Vincent, A., et al. 2021. Cycling Phosphorus and Nitrogen through Cropping Systems in an Intensive Dairy Production Region. Agronomy, 11(5), 1005. MDPI AG.

Moore, A. and Ippolito, J. 2009. Dairy Manure Field Applications—How Much is Too Much? CIS1156.

Sheffield, R. E., Ndegwa, P., Gamroth, M., and de Haro Martí, M. E. 2008. Odor Control Practices for Northwest Dairies. CIS1148.

USDA-NASS. 2021. Quick Stats. Retrieved 02 27, 2022, from National Agricultural Statistics Service:

USEPA. 2015. Beneficial Uses of Manure and Environmental Protection. Fact Sheet.