Announcements / Opportunities / Progress

Innovative Grant Paves Way for Precision Application of Soil Amendments

In February 2015, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation awarded an Ecosystem Restoration Grant to the University of Vermont Extension to help farmers improve the application of soil amendments to their fields.

The grant supported the purchase of a Tebbes MS140 material spreader.  The MS140 can not only accurately measure the amount of materials being applied to fields at all times, it also can uniformly apply many different types of materials, like compost, bedded pack waste, solid manure, wood ash, round bales, bunk rot, lime, and chicken litter. The specially-designed spreader allows for weighing of the materials when loaded as well as the rate per acre being applied as the spreader is being emptied.  The spreader is also designed to evenly apply the nutrients to allow crop uptake as fast as possible while maintaining uniform nutrient levels across a field.  Historically, spreading these materials has been a challenge leading to potential for surface water runoff and inaccurate nutrient management plan implementation, especially on smaller farms.

Twenty Vermont farms utilized the spreader during the 2015 growing season; these farms were located in 20 HUC 12 watersheds throughout the Lake Champlain Basin.  The MS140 applied nutrients on 83 fields consisting of over 990 acres.  Nutrients were applied in accordance with farms’ Nutrient Management Plans (NMP) where applicable.

As a result of the grant and the acquisition of this piece of equipment, farmers had and will continue to have, a means to accurately account for nutrients added to fields and better follow Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) recommendations for applying these nutrients. This is particularly important on small farms where wastes and amendments have historically been more difficult to deal with certainty because of the lack of infrastructure as well as the diversity of amendments available.

The MS140, which will be available for use again in 2016, is helping farmers realize that accurate application of nutrients not only helps protect our environment but also the farmer’s bottom line.  By having real time application data, farmers now have the information they need to help ensure that just the right amount of nutrients are added for optimum soil health for their crops.   For more information you can contact Jeff Sanders at Jeffrey.Sanders@uvm.edu or 802-524-6501.