Manure Research Findings and Technologies: From Science to Social Issues

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 Rationale and background
Manure management is an essential component of livestock production. Manure is a rich source of organic matter that can improve soil quality and tilth, and also provides valuable nutrients for crop production. However, it must be managed carefully to protect the natural environment and human health. Nutrient losses to the environment can potentially harm the quality of water, air, soil and ecosystem health; reduce the quality of life for people; and reduce valuable nutrients that could have been used instead for crop production. The movement of manure pathogens which are zoonotic (i.e. microorganisms from animals that can cause disease in humans) into water, soil or the air may potentially be a risk to human health.

For sustainable agriculture, there is a need for continued progress in improving manure management practices to minimize the movement of manure nutrients and pathogens into the environment. In support of this need, a remarkable amount of research has been done in recent years on manure management. This research is contributing to the development and implementation of beneficial management practices (BMPs) for manure management. BMPs are management tools that are practical, environmentally sound and economically viable.

Nevertheless some information gaps still need to be addressed to ensure that agricultural producers have the information they need for sustainable manure management. Therefore, the Alberta Livestock Industry Development Fund (ALIDF) funded this project to identify what manure-related research has already been done, what information gaps remain, and which gaps most need to be addressed.

The objectives of this project were to:
  • prepare a literature review on manure-related research, including feed management, land application of manure, nutrient and pathogen losses, odour and gas emissions, and social issues;
  • peer review the evolving technologies and BMPs, and provide a cost-benefit analysis of current and future BMPs whenever the information is available; and
  • identify and prioritize research gaps related to manure management based on the challenges facing the livestock industry.
This executive summary does not strictly follow the order of the material in the main report. In particular, portions from the three sections on gaseous emissions have been inserted into the summaries of the other sections to reduce the overlap between sections. Also, the information about manure collection, storage and treatment has been separated from the information on land application of manure to make the report's major contents more obvious. These modifications are noted at the start of the relevant subsections in this summary.

A team of researchers and professionals followed four steps to address the project's objectives. The first step was to report on the research conducted to date and summarize the main findings. The second was to identify research gaps. The third was to have a peer review of the report. And the final step was to prioritize the gaps. Each of the team members was responsible for a specific topic as follows:

Dr. Mohamed Amrani, Project Leader - nutrient management policies and programs
Dr. Erasmus Okine - feed management
Dr. Jeff Schoenau - land application
Dr.Merle Olson - pathogens
Dr. John Feddes - odour emissions
Dr. Atta Atia - ammonia and hydrogen sulfide emissions
Karen Haugen-Kozyra and Faye Banham - greenhouse gas emissions
Serecon Consulting - social issues

The team members conducted literature searches of scientific journals, peer reviewed papers, books and reports, farm news media, web documents and databases, and also obtained personal communications from other experts. Based on an assessment of the existing research, each author then identified a number of research gaps.

The peer review process included professionals from a variety of agencies. Reviewers provided comments to the authors to improve the final draft of this report. As part of the peer review process, a workshop was held in March 2003 in Banff.Workshop participants included representatives from the livestock industry and professionals from Canada and the United States.

In addition to discussing the draft literature review, the workshop participants also supplemented the research gaps identified by the authors. As well, the participants provided recommendations on the next steps needed to prioritize the gaps, disseminate the information from the report, and continue the process of synthesizing manure research.

The team then used the following process to prioritize the gaps. First, each author was asked to select the four most important gaps in his or her section from the list of gaps developed at the Banff workshop. Next, at a workshop in Edmonton, the authors brought together their lists of gaps and merged some overlapping gaps to create a set of 15 gaps. Then, from this set of 15 gaps, they identified the eight top priority gaps, using the following criteria with a rating scale of 1 to 9:
  • Is it a challenging issue for the industry?
    (9 = if not solved, growth of the industry will be questionable)
  • What is the cost/benefit of the project?
    (9 = all costs of producing, delivering and adopting the technology are very low compared to the anticipated benefits to producers and consumers)
  • How will the project contribute the competitiveness of the industry?
    ( 9 = will contribute significantly)
  • How will the project contribute the environmental sustainability of the industry?
    (9 = will contribute significantly)
  • Can we write a research proposal around the idea?
    (9 = clear and very specific idea)

Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0 or higher is required to view these files. If you do not have the Acrobat Reader, click on this link to get a free copy:

Executive Summary - Results of the Literature Review (PDF FILE - 490 KB)
Chapter 1 -Introduction and Methodology (PDF FILE - 210 KB)
Chapter 2 -Nutrition Management: Programs and Policies (PDF FILE - 323 KB)
Chapter 3 -Feeding Strategies for Mitigating Nitrogen and Phosphorous Production and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Domestic Animals in Alberta (PDF FILE - 408 KB)
Chapter 4 -Land Application and Handling of Manure (PDF FILE - 559 KB)
Chapter 5 -Zoonotic Pathogens in Domestic Livestock Manure (PDF FILE - 508 KB)
Chapter 6 -Odour and Air Quality (PDF FILE - 327 KB)
Chapter 7 -Ammonia and Hydrogen Sulfide Emissions from Livestock Production (PDF FILE - 364 KB)
Chapter 8 -Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Methane and Nitrous Oxide (PDF FILE - 623 KB)
Chapter 9 -Understanding and Managing Livestock Social Issues (PDF FILE - 506 KB)
Chapter 10 -Research Gaps and Next Steps in Manure Management Research (PDF FILE - 168 KB)

For a free copy of the Manure Research Findings and Technologies: From Science to Social Issues CD-ROM or hard copy, contact:

Trevor Wallace
Provincial Nutrient Management Specialist
Environmental Stewardship Division
6547 Sparrow Drive
Leduc AB T9E 7C7
Phone: (780) 980-7587
Fax: (780) 980-4237
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Trevor Wallace.
This document is maintained by Laura Thygesen.
This information published to the web on March 24, 2004.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 23, 2018.