Manure management: data collection in support of resource use efficiency

Livestock plays an increasing role in food production with manure as a by-product. At present the utilization of this manure is far from perfect to the detriment of the environment.

However, a better re-use of manures can reduce harmful emissions of N and P to water bodies and of N and GHG’s to the atmosphere. It will concomitantly reduce the demand for finite resources such as land, rock P and the fossil fuel needed to produce N fertilizers. Poor utilization of manures stems from inadequate collection, storage, treatment and transport systems, from the suboptimal composition, timing and methods of manure application, and from the allocation of manures to competitive non-agricultural destinations, including disposal. The latter is aggravated by the common spatial separation between animal feed production and livestock production.

Imperfections vary strongly per region, per country and per continent. To initiate the right actions in the right places, it is key to identify the character and extent of these imperfections. Such a region-specific picture is as yet not available, due to the lack of comprehensive and quantitative information and tools to interpret it. This project will a) develop a novel method of combining data on manure management from different sources, aimed at b) the production of an improved global map of the current management of manure and its ultimate use as fertilizer, c) identify region-specific shortcomings and required actions to improve the use of manures as fertilizer, and d) assess the potential agronomic and environmental impacts of these actions. The project will be executed in cooperation with another WUR-IPOP project on innovative data collection methods, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, the Food and Agriculture Organization and possibly the universities of Hue (Vietnam) and Hangzhou (China).

Research objectives

  1. the validation of different data collection methods on manure management, development of methods to combine different data collection methods and data types by using co-variables to extrapolate limited and scattered information
  2. the development of a transparent tool to identify, assess and visualize problems linked to the production and management of manures, as well as the most apt solutions, per region through the production of maps
  3. the development of a transparent tool enabling its users to quantify the agronomic and environmental effects of adjusted management of manure.
  4. estimate (global) agronomic and environmental impacts of current and improved manure management