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Finding best practices

Researching ways to apply manure on tile-drained lands.

May 9, 2016  By John Carney

There continues to be a growing interest in tile drainage in Manitoba, and the Manitoba Livestock Manure Management Initiative (MLMMI) is working to help determine beneficial management practices for the application of manure on tile-drained lands.

The MLMMI has a mandate to work with Manitoba’s livestock industry to address challenges associated with nutrient management regulation, new technology and environmentally sound practices, while helping the livestock sector realize its economic potential. MLMMI is a Manitoba-focused organization, helping producers in our province manage their manure-related issues in the context of their own local conditions.

Producers are well aware of the many agronomic benefits that water management through tile drainage can offer. Many producers have decided this tool has a place in their farm’s toolbox. However, some stakeholders don’t understand tile drainage. Some rural municipalities have questions about the environmental impact of nutrient and pathogen management on tile-drained land. It is essential to understand what scientific evidence is available to answer these questions.

Water management is a high priority in Manitoba, and the risk of manure nutrients and pathogens moving into watersheds has been identified as an area where more information would be helpful.

Since its formation in 1998, the MLMMI has supported more than 70 research and demonstration projects. A recent request for proposals (RFP) issued by MLMMI about beneficial management practices for applying manure on tile-drained land has received an outstanding response from researchers in Canada and the United States.


A total of eight inquiries from researchers yielded six proposals. There are two literature reviews scheduled to be completed and released in June.

The next step to learn more about nutrient run-off on tile-drained land was to call on the science and research community to examine the issue. While there has been tremendous investment in research and development of beneficial management practices throughout North America, we come back to one issue: what do Manitoba producers and other stakeholders need to know to make informed decisions?

It begins with a good scientific review of what has been learned in other areas that may be relevant here in Manitoba. Ideally, the results from the RFP will show us where there are gaps related to areas in which Manitoba producers have a particular interest.

As with almost every agricultural activity, there are risks and there are ways to reduce those risks. The project proposals for these literature reviews will summarize research on nutrient and pathogen movement from tile-drained land to water. This will include a comparison of nutrient and pathogen movement from tiled and non-tiled land amended with manure.

This work will also identify beneficial management practices that will decrease the risk of nutrient and pathogen movement to water through subsurface drainage systems in Manitoba conditions. MLMMI will work to understand gaps in current research and recommend future research and development on using tile drainage in Manitoba.

As Manitoba’s agriculture industry goes forward, science has an important role to play in informing our management practices. Our organization plays an important role in bringing this information together for all stakeholders to use.

Communicating the research results to stakeholders is a key aspect of completing this work. MLMMI will post the final reports to www.manure.mb.ca. DC

 John Carney is the executive director of the Manitoba Livestock Manure Management Initiative. MLMMI is funded by the Canada and Manitoba governments through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

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