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Improved livestock efficiency and increased crop yields help improve phosphorus balance

New research suggests improved efficiency in livestock production and increased crops yields are helping improve the phosphorus balance in rural Manitoba.

Research conducted by the University of Manitoba and Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives has shown out of 78 rural municipalities in Manitoba farmers in 15 are dealing with a phosphorus deficit while farmers in only nine are facing an excess of phosphorus and in seven of those nine phosphorus levels could be brought into balance by replacing synthetic fertilizer with available manure.

MLMMI executive director John Carney says both the sources of phosphorus and the uses of phosphorus need to be considered.

We can either purchase and import into the province synthetic fertilizer or we can use livestock manure as the source of phosphorus.

Over time animals are becoming more efficient at converting feed into protein so we’re seeing more pounds of milk or more pounds of meat on a meat animal per unit of food input so that efficiency means the animals are using the feed better and excreting less nutrients onto the soil.

On the requirement side, that’s where the crops come into the picture because crops need phosphorus.

As we change the crops that we grow in the province, corn is a big user of phosphorus and we continue to see more acres going into corn.

The other thing we know is that the greater the yield of the crop the more phosphorus it needs and of course the trend on yields over time is up and so we see a bigger demand from crops for phosphorus both because of change in crops that we’re planting as well as increased yields.

For more on dealing with excess phosphorus visit the Manitoba Livestock Manure Management Initiative web site at manure.mb.ca.

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