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CALS scientists to share manure irrigation report findings on April 14

A UW-Madison/UW-Extension-led workgroup tasked with assessing manure irrigation practices will share its findings during a webinar held on Thursday, April 14. Immediately following the webinar, the workgroup’s final report will be made available online at http://fyi.uwex.edu/manureirrigation/.

The April 14 webinar will run from 12:00pm – 1:15pm, with approximately 45 minutes for presentations by workgroup members, followed by 30 minutes for questions submitted by webinar attendees through the webinar platform. To watch the webinar, attendees must have computer access and register in advance through the Wisconsin Manure Irrigation Workgroup website: http://fyi.uwex.edu/manureirrigation/. For those not able to attend during this time, a recording of the webinar will be uploaded to the workgroup website.

The webinar speakers are:

-Ken Genskow, associate professor and chair of the UW-Madison Department of Urban and Regional Planning. Genskow is the chair of the Wisconsin Manure Irrigation Workgroup and co-editor of the report. He is also a UW-Extension water resources planning specialist and director of the UW-Extension Natural Resources Program in the Environmental Resources Center.

-Becky Larson, UW-Madison assistant professor and UW-Extension biological waste specialist in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering. Larson is a workgroup member and co-editor of the report.

-Mark Borchardt, microbiologist with the USDA – Agricultural Research Service. Borchardt is a workgroup member and led a study to measure pathogens and other microbes spread through the air via manure irrigation. He works in the USDA-ARS’ Environmental Integrated Dairy Management Research Unit, located at the UW-Madison Marshfield Agricultural Research Station.

Please note that a follow-up webinar will be held the week of May 16th, in order to give people time to read the full report and then ask questions. Webinar details will be posted in eCALS.

Background on the workgroup and the report:

The Wisconsin Manure Irrigation Workgroup, which is composed of scientists, public health specialists, state agency experts, farmers, conservationists and others, was convened in 2013 by UW-Madison/UW-Extension at the request of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The group was charged with reviewing the potential advantages and concerns associated with manure irrigation—which is the practice of applying livestock manure to fields using irrigation equipment—and sharing their findings, responses and recommendations.

The group, which gathered citizen input early on to help guide its efforts, has compiled its findings into a technical report, titled “Considerations for the Use of Manure Irrigation Practices.” The 80-plus-page document is designed to serve as a resource for citizens and elected officials as they make decisions about manure irrigation in their communities. It is important to note that the workgroup has no formal authority, and the report does not establish policy on manure irrigation.

The report addresses concerns about manure irrigation identified through citizen input, including: water quality, air quality, pathogen transport, droplet drift and odor. It also explores the primary benefits associated with the practice, including potential reductions in manure runoff, soil compaction and road use associated with manure application.

The report also includes findings of a new research study, titled “Airborne Pathogens from Dairy Manure Aerial Irrigation and the Human Health Risk,” which is the first in-the-field study to measure pathogens and other microbes spread through the air via manure irrigation and to use those measures to calculate a public health risk. The findings of this research project, which was conducted in tandem with—but independently from—the workgroup’s efforts, helped inform the workgroup’s responses and recommendations.

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