Stateler Family Farms, McComb, Ohio, finishes 16,000 pigs each year, resulting in tons of manure. The good news? All of it—about 2.4 million gallons Duane Stateler estimates—goes to fertilize the family’s cropland or is sold to area farmers for the same purpose.
“We buy some nitrogen for corn and to topdress the wheat, but that’s it. The manure supplies everything else, including phosphorus,” says Duane.
While the manure is free, Duane estimates he spends roughly $35 an acre to use it as fertilizer, based on equipment and fuel costs.
“Our best yields are always in those fields where the manure was applied the previous year,” he says.
When the Statelers first started the hog operation in 2006, in order to bring son Anthony back to the farm, they applied the manure by first fracturing the ground, spraying the manure over the top and then lightly incorporating it with a harrow.
“But we still had some manure on top and were losing some nitrogen to nitrification, so we knew we needed to do something different,” Duane says.
Last year, the father-son partners changed equipment and started making subsurface applications in fields, injecting the manure about 8” beneath the soil’s surface and then closing the trench with a coulter. Variable-rate technology allows them to apply manure based on each field’s nutrient replacement needs.
The result? The Statelers no longer lose nitrogen to denitrification, and they can reduce the amount of phosphorus leaving fields significantly—by 60% to 70% in many cases—though results can vary widely by field. That’s well-below the goal Ohio has to reduce phosphorus runoff into Lake Erie by 40% of the 2008 phosphorus load by 2025.
In 2020, the Statelers plan to continue their on-farm research effort with side-by-side comparisons of surface applications of manure versus the subsurface injections.
More information about the family’s farming operation is available on their website: https://statelerfamilyfarms.com/