Tuesday, April 4th, 2017
Firms seek to test new manure tech
Aim to curb nutrient runoff
By Nancy Allen
MARIA STEIN - Several companies want to test their manure technology locally, Ag Solutions Coordinator Theresa Dirksen reported at the group's meeting Monday night at the Marion Township building.
About 25 people attended the meeting.
Dirksen was hired just more than a year ago by Mercer County commissioners to search for affordable manure-management methods to help area farmers reduce nutrient runoff blamed for toxic algal blooms in Grand Lake.
Two companies, Renewable Nutrients, North Carolina, and InNow LLC, Cleveland, want to partner to test QuickWash Nutrient Removal technology using a portable unit that could be driven on a trailer to farms.
"The process uses sulphuric acid and the solids coming out have little to no phosphorus," Dirksen said. "At the end you're left with a pile of solids high in organics and a pile of calcium phosphate that is 50 percent moisture that can be hauled away and land applied."
Dirksen said she hopes to schedule a mini-pilot test this month and a full-scale test in June. The mini-pilot would be completed at no cost, and the full-scale test would cost about $10,000, she said, adding that she likely could secure local donations to pay for the full-scale test. The technology would be tested on dairy and swine manure. The technology costs 1 cent to process a gallon of manure, she said.
"This system costs $400,000 to $500,000 for capital costs, the lowest for any system of this type I've seen," Dirksen said, adding another company's similar system costs $1.5 million. "This is the most cost-effective I've seen."
Phosphorus-fed toxic blue-green algal blooms have resulted in state-issued water advisories on Grand Lake every year since 2009 and millions of dollars in lost tourism on the 13,500-acre lake. On Jan. 18, 2011, the state designated the local watershed distressed after humans and animals in 2010 were sickened by blue-green algae in the lake. This triggered new rules for watershed farmers, including mandatory nutrient-management plans involving soil tests and restricting manure application.
Nutrient runoff comes from many sources, but in the Grand Lake Watershed, studies show it's mostly from farmland in the 58,000-acre, livestock-heavy watershed. Phosphorus found in manure is the algae's favorite food source. The toxins can harm the liver and cause gastrointestinal symptoms and rashes and can sicken people and kill small animals.
Dirksen said two Canadian companies - ATD Waste Systems and Fournier Industries - also want to partner to test manure technology locally. These companies, she noted, may use the same QuickWash technology as Renewable Nutrients and InNow LLC, and she did not want to duplicate tests. She promised to investigate this proposal further.
Trident Processes of Washington State also wants to test its manure technology locally.
"Trident wants to do a pilot using a mobile system for three to four months and go to five or six farms and process all of the manure at each farm," Dirksen said. "It would be expensive, so I will be looking for grants."
Dirksen also reported that she toured Prestage Ag Energy farm in North Carolina on March 22. Prestage is the largest turkey integrator in the U.S.
"They put turkey litter (manure) into a boiler and burn it," she said. "Seventy percent of their funding is coming from renewable energy credits from the federal government and the rest is coming from using electricity and steam to power their feed mill and through selling the leftover ash product as a fertilizer. The process reduces the volume of poultry litter by 75 percent.
Dirksen asked group members if they would like to tour River View Farms in Orleans, Indiana, on May 15. The turkey and swine farm uses livestock water recycling to separate swine manure; a gasifier to gasify turkey manure; and swine solids that create steam, electricity and biochar. The biochar can be sold as a fertilizer.
Dirksen then updated the group on several projects she hopes to complete, some of them using grant money for which she has applied.
This week she will collect water samples from a bioreactor installed at St. Charles Center Farm in August 2013. The bioreactor is a huge filter that captures nitrates and phosphorus in farm field tile. She also has applied for two grants - one to conduct a soil health and aerial image project to study the differences between no-till and minimum-till systems in the Grand Lake and St. Marys River watersheds and another grant to install a series of conservation practices in a severely eroded grassed waterway in the St. Marys River Watershed.
Dirksen reported that she also will assist Wright State University-Lake Campus personnel in studying a saturated buffer installed in the St. Marys River Watershed last year. The buffer diverts part of the tile flow into a shallow tile that was installed adjacent to a tree-lined buffer near a creek. It can get the trees and grass to absorb the diverted water and nutrients.
Also during Monday's meeting, Glen Arnold, OSU Extension field specialist in manure management systems, presented studies he has conducted during the last three years on applying manure to growing corn.
Typically, farmers apply manure to barren ground in the spring before crops are planted and in the fall after crops are harvested. This makes the waste more prone to run off. Using a tractor and drag hose to apply manure to growing corn gives farmers an extra six-week window during which to apply manure and reduce nutrient runoff.
He encouraged Mercer County producers who would like to try the technology to contact Dirksen and OSU could provide the equipment. Arnold said the extension has received grants to purchase two Cadman continuous manure applicators that can apply manure to taller growing corn. The units will be used this year in Darke, Putnam, Crawford and other counties, he said.
"The goal for 2018 season is to get a few more if some grants come through," he said. "If we get four or five, we could get one in Mercer County."
The Cadman system could extend the window to apply manure to as many as 10 weeks, he said.
The next Ag Solutions meeting likely will be held in mid- to late May.