We are recognizing that liquid manure often has a very negative effect on soil biology and soil health. It may deliver nutrients, but it comes with a long list of possible negatives.
It is often in an anoxic state (deeply anaerobic), where the organic residues contained within it are putrified rather than fermented. (which is the source of odor and microbial toxins)
The microbial activity which might be present in the liquid manure has often been suppressed or even shut down completely as a result of this anoxic state, along with the presence of antibiotics.
Liquid dairy manure generally contains quite a high salt content, which has a negative effect when applied to the soil.
In some cases, cleaners and antimicrobial chemicals from milking parlor waste wash-water are also put into the lagoon or pit. (Which is a very, very bad idea, and will increase weed pressure of velvetleaf and other weeds dramatically where this is applied to soil).
Often, when liquid manure is applied, dead earthworms can be found on the soil surface the next day. Might this be a signal that this product is harmful to soil biology?
The odor is also an indicator of fermentation and decomposition gone wrong.
It doesn’t need to be this way.
It is possible to turn liquid manure lagoons into fermentation tanks that turn this valuable nutrient source from something that is harmful to soil biology to a fermentation broth that is very beneficial to soil biology.
When healthy fermentation is taking place in a liquid manure pit there is no odor near the pit, and there is no odor when it is spread. It may still smell slightly like manure when spreading, but there is no ‘stink’ that spreads for hundreds of yards.
When healthy fermentation is taking place, there is no crust on top of the liquid manure, and there is no accumulation of sludge at the bottom. All the solids are consumed, fermented, and the entire lagoon turns into a nice consistent liquid.
Imagine turning all the liquid manure into a fermented product that resembles concentrated compost tea. This is what is possible, and it is a much more valuable nutrient source than anoxic liquid manure that suppresses biology.
A number of manure treatment products are on the market, with varying degrees of effectiveness. Old-time treatments that have been reported over the years include adding yeast, adding molasses, and adding hydrogen peroxide. These can still be effective sometime but seem to be less effective as more GM grains are used as feed, and more antibiotics are present. Here are three AEA products I have worked with for this purpose that I know work very effectively.
The first one is HumaCarb. HumaCarb is not as effective as the other two products in triggering healthy fermentation. It does improve fermentation, but not so actively that it drives the digestion of accumulated sludge. HumaCarb is unmatched in its ability to bind odor-causing compounds, and it does so fast. In one case, a neighboring farm was spreading liquid hog manure on an AEA customers farm, and the odor was drifting to the house a quarter-mile away. The AEA customer asked him to take some HumaCarb back and mix it in before continuing to spread. HumaCarb was added to the liquid pit at a rate of 1 gal/10,000 gallon of liquid manure, lightly mixed in, and then immediately resumed spreading. The very next load, (20 minutes later) the odor was eliminated completely. The following day there were no dead earthworms where the treated manure was applied, where the soil was covered in dead earthworms where the first load had been spread. Obviously, it was binding more toxic compounds than just the odors. Depending on the manure concentration, HumaCarb is commonly added at concentrations ranging from 1/5000 to 1/15,000.
The second product is Rejuvenate. Rejuvenate does not bind odors as rapidly as HumaCarb, and delivers the best results when it is added some time before spreading. Rejuvenate activates and amplifies the existing organisms in the liquid manure and speeds up fermentation. When Rejuvenate is added the crust is quickly dissolved, and some sludge is digested as well. When it is added in advance, as the manure lagoon is filling, it will prevent the development of odor simply by facilitating good fermentation. It is usually added at similar rates as HumaCarb.
When there is accumulated sludge a microbial inoculant called OP8 is the heavy hitter. OP8 can digest accumulated sludge that is feet deep, and it will do so quite rapidly. Usual recommended rates are 1-2 ounces per 100,000 gal, depending on sludge accumulation.
Rejuvenate and HumaCarb are not microbial inoculants, they only speed up the microbes that are already present. OP8 is an actual inoculant.
For the most rapid digestion and highest quality conversion from liquid manure to liquid gold, use a synergistic stack of all three.
Imagine liquid manure that truly smells good, is good for the soil, and has no chance of killing anyone from inhaled gasses? Imagine how much additional value you bring to your soil and crops when you add a product that drives soil health instead of reducing soil health?