As the snow begins to melt, frost leaves the ground and rain showers fall, farmers are busy applying manure and other nutrients to their fields in advance of spring planting.

Lee karen
Managing Editor / Progressive Dairy

Considering this is also the time of year when the risk of manure runoff is greatest, a tool was developed to help farmers and other applicators determine which days are better for spreading and, more importantly, which days to avoid.

Farmers in Wisconsin can go online for the latest forecast showing the risk that runoff from manure spread on their fields could pose to lakes, rivers or groundwater in their watershed.

The mapping website is a joint project of the Wisconsin DATCP; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-National Weather Service River Forecasting Center; USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service; University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and Soil Science Department; Discovery Farms; University of Wisconsin – Platteville and its Pioneer Farm; and U.S. Geological Survey.

Progressive Dairyman recently spoke with Mark Jenks with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to learn more about this tool offered as part of the Wisconsin Manure Management Advisory System.


What is the web address?


Why was it developed?
JENKS: It was developed in response to concerns around the state regarding manure spills and well water contamination.

Who should use it?

JENKS: Anyone who is going to be applying manure, or any type of nutrients, to fields.

Is there a cost to use it?


What are some unique features?

JENKS: It is updated three times a day and takes into account snow melt, snow accumulation, soil moisture, precipitation forecast for the next 72 hours, and temperature forecasts for the next 10 days. The website also factors in the 72-hour window for nutrient incorporation as recommended in nutrient management planning.

How does it work?

JENKS: Model results and components are collected from the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Chanhassen, Minnesota. This information is sent to the University of Wisconsin – Madison where it is processed into a color-coded map of Wisconsin, which is split into the state’s different watersheds.

When the risk of runoff increases, the colors on the map will change from gray to orange to red within the affected watersheds.

Why is this important to understand or utilize?

JENKS: It is one more tool to help farmers and nutrient applicators make better decisions on when and where to spread nutrients on fields, and when they should consider alternative options, such as storage or spreading on a lower risk field. (Using one of the links on the right hand column, the website also provides tips on what to do when spreading is necessary on a high-risk day.)

This website is there to provide assistance. This information should always be combined with the local farmer and nutrient applicators’ knowledge of the fields. For example, they would know if a particular field was completely saturated by a recent rainfall. PD