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Cow Manure May Soon Bring New Sustainable Fertilizing Trend

Cow manure is a great fertilizer as it is low in nitrogen that will not burn your tender plants, and has a good balance of nutrients too. The agricultural waste, which has always been a headache for dairy farmers - may soon start a new sustainable fertilizing trend.

Shivam Dwivedi
Organic Fertilizer
Cow Dung Manure can be a green alternative to commercial fertilizers!!

Cow manure is a great fertilizer as it is low in nitrogen that will not burn your tender plants, and has a good balance of nutrients too. The agricultural waste, which has always been a headache for dairy farmers - may soon start a new sustainable fertilizing trend.  

What is Upcycling?  

Upcycling also referred to as creative reuse, is that the process of remodeling by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products that seemed to be of greater quality, like artistic value or environmental value. In other words, upcycling is about materials or items that get to be re-adapted and/or re-purposed in an ingenious way, and whose lifespan is, therefore, expanded. 

Research Findings: 

To decompose organic matter, judiciously from 700 degrees Fahrenheit to 1,200 degrees F, without oxygen - a process referred to as 'Pyrolysis', different from incineration and retaining nutrients from dairy lagoons can transform manure into a manageable, ecologically friendly biochar fertilizer, as per new research published in Scientific Reports

This will permit dairy producers to stop storing excreta in on-farm lagoons or spreading it only in nearby fields. 

"Manure is usually a liquid problem and it has increasingly been an issue of disposal," said Johannes Lehmann, professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University. "Using pyrolysis of solid manure and retention of nutrients from the liquid onto the biochar, we can create fertilizer from waste. That's a marketable commodity." 

Commercial fertilizer made of phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium is created using carbon inputs like natural gas, coal, sulfur, and rock deposits. If agriculture can recycle nitrogen, Lehmann said, farming can minimize the carbon input that comes from fossil fuel. 

"Once we make a dry fertilizer out of what was once a liquid problem, it is no longer an issue of disposal," said Lehmann, a Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability faculty fellow. "It's safe because the solids are pyrolyzed. There are no pathogens, no hormones or antibiotics residues or any other material that could contaminate soil or water." 

Management of Nitrogen is a major challenge throughout the farming world. In New York state, for example, dairy manure waste production averages 12.8 million metric tons annually, which can easily fertilize the state's 43,000 acres of corn. If a farmer grows 200 acres of corn, that producer spends about $28,000 annually for commercial fertilizer, while a dairy farmer with 550 cows spends about $25,000 annually on manure storage, according to the paper. 

"Coupling the local excess of manure nutrients with regional fertilizer needs could help farmers save money and alleviate environmental issues," said doctoral student Leilah Krounbi, the paper's lead author. 

"You're reducing the volume of the solid waste product that has 90% water and reducing it to zero water," Lehmann said. "If we retain nutrients from the liquid as we have shown in this study, you're going from these huge lagoons that are noticeably emitting odor and climate gases such as methane and reducing that footprint by an order of magnitude. That's a huge saving all around." 

(Source: Cornell University) 

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