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land application

Farm field covered in snow with pine trees and sunset in background
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Monday, February 19th, 2024

Co-authored by Glen Arnold, OSU Extension Field Specialist in Manure and Nutrient Management

This week’s snow was a reminder that we’re still in the middle of winter in Ohio, with more cold weather yet to come.  Winter weather is a challenge for those who handle manure, and it’s equally challenging to know the laws for applying manure on frozen and snow covered ground.  Those laws vary according to several important factors:  whether ground is frozen or snow covered, whether a farm is operating under a permit, and the geographical location of the land application.  Here’s a summary of the different winter application rules and standards in effect this winter.

What is frozen ground?  Ohio’s rules don’t define the term frozen ground, but generally, ground is considered frozen if you cannot inject manure into it or cannot conduct tillage within 24 hours to incorporate the manure into the soil.

Farms with Permits.  Farms with permits from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) or Ohio EPA operate under different rules than other manure applications in Ohio, and they cannot apply manure in the winter unless it is an extreme emergency.  Movement to other suitable storage is usually the selected alternative.  Several commercial manure applicators have established manure storage ponds in recent years to help address this issue. 

Applications in the Grand Lake St. Marys (GLSM) watershed.  There is a winter manure application ban from December 15 to March 1 for the GLSM watershed,  8ODA has the authority to allow an application, but that is not likely during the winter period.  After March 1, applications on frozen ground or ground covered in more than one inch of snow may occur only if the manure is injected or incorporated within 24 hours of surface application. The rule is in OAC 901:13-1-11

Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed Map

Applications in the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) watershed.  In those parts of western Ohio that are in the WLEB watershed, below, the House Bill 1 restrictions established in 2016 are still in effect.  The law prohibits any manure application on frozen ground.  Applications are permissible on snow-covered soil if the manure is injected into the ground or incorporated within twenty-four hours of surface application.  The law is in ORC 939.08.

Western Lake Erie Basin

Other parts of Ohio.  It’s important to note that the NRCS Nutrient Management Conservation Practice Standard Code 590 (NRCS 590) now applies statewide in Ohio (but does not replace the GLSM and WLEB restrictions).  NRCS 590 was revised in 2020 and states that the surface application of manure on frozen and snow-covered soil is not acceptable unless it is an emergency.  An emergency is a temporary situation created by unforeseen causes and only after all other options have been exhausted. In this emergency situation only, limited quantities of liquid manure may be applied to address manure storage limitations only until non-frozen soils are available for manure application. The Ohio Department of Agriculture will enforce NRCS 590 in counties outside of GLSM and WLEB only if there is a manure discharge from the field. If a citation is issued for a discharge, liability for the discharge will be based on the 590 standards.

All applications of liquid manure to frozen and snow-covered soils must be documented in the producers’ records and must be applied in accordance with ALL of the following criteria:

  • The rate of application shall not exceed the lesser of 5,000 gallons/acre or P removal for the next crop.
  • Applications are to be made on land with at least 90% surface residue cover (cover crop, good quality hay or pasture field, all corn grain residue remaining after harvest, all wheat residue cover remaining after harvest).
  • Manure shall not be applied on more than 20 contiguous acres. Contiguous areas for application are to be separated by a break of at least 200 feet.
  • Applications should be in areas of the field with the lowest risk of nutrient transport such as areas furthest from streams, ditches, waterways, and with the least amount of slope.
  • Application setback distances must be a minimum of 200 feet from grassed waterways, surface drainage ditches, streams, surface inlets, water bodies and 300 feet from all wells, springs and public surface drinking water intakes. This distance may need to be increased due to local conditions.
  • For fields exceeding 6% slope, manure shall be applied in alternating strips 60 to 200 feet wide generally on the contour, or in the case of contour strips on the alternating strips.

Stockpiling.  For farmers with solid manure, stockpiling could be an option. There are two different types of stockpiles: short-term and long-term.

The short-term stockpile standards are in NRCS Field Office Technical Guide 318,  Short Term Storage of Animal Waste and Byproducts Standard (“NRCS 318”). Essentially, short- term stockpile is a pile of solid manure being kept temporarily in one or more locations. It is considered a temporary stockpile as long as the pile is kept at the location for no more than 180 days and stockpiled in the field where the manure will be applied. Setback distances listed in NRCS 318 should be followed to prevent discharge to waters of the state. There are multiple recommendations listed in NRCS 318 that speak to location, timing, and preventative measures to use while stockpiling the manure short term.

The long-term stockpile standards are in NRCS Field Office Technical Guide 313 Waste Storage Facility Standard (“NRCS 313”). A long-term stockpile is directly related to solid manure being piled and kept at a facility for longer than 180 days at a permanent location. It is recommended that all permanent long term storage stockpiles follow the guidelines in NRCS 313 with the utilization of a stacking facility and the structural designs of fabricated structures. A stacking facility can be open, covered or roofed, but specific parameters should be in place to prevent manure runoff from the site—these recommendations are in NRCS 313.

Check with your SWCD office.  Regardless of where you are in Ohio, it’s probably best to check with your county Soil and Water Conservation District office before considering winter manure application in Ohio. The rules have changed, and you should become aware of those that affect your operation in your area.



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