The U.S. agricultural landscape has rapidly evolved with a shift to bigger and more specialized farms, along with a large increase in commercial fertilizer use. This shift has resulted in less opportunity to jointly manage manure and plant nutrient needs within a single operation. Further, livestock operations are becoming more consolidated, thus larger operations are producing a greater volume of manure on smaller areas. A higher manure-to-cropland ratio has magnified the risk that manure nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) and pathogens that might flow into ground and surface water due to overapplication of manure on crops or leakage from manure storage facilities.
ERS conducts research on how livestock farmers may be compensating with higher manure-to-cropland ratios through more effective manure management, specifically: