Proactive slurry management can be an effective method in helping the agricultural industry reach its net zero emissions target by 2040. Farmers Guardian reports.
Dairy farmers can take practical steps to reduce their farm’s emission contribution by tailoring on-farm slurry management practices.
Andrew Sincock, Agriton UK, says early management of slurry is vital in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
He says: “When discussing slurry management, most people talk about the storage of slurry and do not realise that a lot of emissions can be released within cubicles.
“Many farmers will use lime as a bedding powder to help prevent mastitis.
However, the reaction between the ammonium in slurry and the lime can lead to the release of large volumes of carbon dioxide and nitrogen.
“There is evidence to suggest that 1,000kg of lime can react with ammonium in the slurry to release up to 440kg of carbon dioxide, and 280kg of nitrogen, in the form of ammonia.
“Farmers need to have an understanding of the significance of these numbers, and the considerable environmental impact of such products which have been commonplace on farms for years.
“Having access to products that do not produce such harmful emission levels will be key as we aim to reach the 2040 net carbon emissions goal.” Instead, farmers might want to consider the use of a natural antiseptic as a replacement for lime as a bedding powder.
Combined with early slurry management, the addition of a slurry inoculant to cubicles, slurry or farmyard manure can help reduce on-farm emissions.
“When you add effective microorganisms, which contain a mixture of bacteria, yeast, fungi, actinomycetes and phototrophic bacteria to slurry, they work synergistically to break down and ferment organic matter.
“Compared to the natural rotting process, which many will be familiar with, fermentation helps retain key nutrients within the slurry and decreases the release of harmful emissions such as ammonia, carbon dioxide and methane.” Mr Sincock explains that for the microbes to work effectively, any chemicals from parlour washings or foot dips, for example, as well as naturally occurring salts in the slurry, should be removed.
“A weekly application of a product that can nullify these chemicals is recommended.
A slurry inoculant can then be added to cubicles or slurry stores every three months for the best results,” he says.
“The nutrient rich slurry can then be spread as an alternative to artificial fertilisers.” Prioritising the management of stored slurry is also key to dealing with emissions contributions on-farm.
“Many people will be familiar with slurry pits being a big emission source on-farm but are not confident in how to manage this effectively,” Mr Sincock says.
“Maintaining an anaerobic environment within slurry pits is key, as too much oxygen can speed up the rotting process, leading to a greater release of emissions.
“Therefore, keeping the slurry store airtight with a floating cover is key.”
With a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2040, there is still a long way to go.
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