Why LESS is more
Slurry application on Irish farms was often seen as a chore, done to relieve pressure on slurry storage systems in late winter / early spring, traditionally spread by splashplate. Today this is changing fast with the use of low emission slurry spreaders (LESS), as Eamonn Lynch Dairy Advisor,explains
The traditional method of spreading slurry for the last 30 to 40 years was by means of slurry tankers with splash plates. However things are changing at a very fast rate which is part due to knowledge built up through some excellent research and the use of low emission slurry spreaders (LESS) techniques by innovative farmers. Another factor which is also having a large effect is regulation and the largely publicised percentage of ammonia emissions which is attributed to Agriculture (98%).
Ammonia is a form of nitrogen lost during slurry spreading, is then often redeposited to other sensitive habitats such as watercourses, the use of LESS technology can reduce this loss.
To achieve these targets we need to know and understand the benefits.
- LESS increases the Nitrogen (N) recovered from Slurry. This allows farmers to reduce chemical N applications on the farm. There is a large loss of nitrogen when using a splash plate as the slurry is spread over a large area which leads to bigger losses from the weather, wind and the effect of the sun. The process of loss is mainly through Ammonia volatilization, the nitrogen in the form of ammonia is potentially a dangerous pollutant to both human health and the environment as well as being a substantial economic loss from the farm. LESS reduces the spread width by minimising the surface area to which slurry is applied and puts the slurry directly on the ground/soil.
- Research shows that by changing to LESS technology that the overall ammonia N losses can be reduced by up to 60%.
- In terms of the fertiliser value compared to the traditional splash plate based system, one thousand gallons with LESS will give on average 50% extra nitrogen compared to a splash plate. Financially the extra nitrogen alone is worth €5 per one thousand gallons. So at two thousand gallons per acre, this is equal to €10 per acre just for the extra fertiliser before you factor in the savings on chemical fertiliser application.
- Another large benefit is the flexibility of slurry applications on grazed pasture with lower levels of contamination and faster recovery of grass / silage swards.
- More accurate application with LESS give farmers the confidence to replace expensive compounds with home sourced organic fertilisers.
In summary, you can make way better use of your slurry, reduce your chemical usage and improve the environment all in one application!
Hear more from Teagasc advisor Eamonn Lynch in this video clip below