Building Soils for Better Crops, Third Edition

Summary and Sources



Animal manures can be very useful sources of amendments for building healthy soils. They are high in nutrients needed by plants and, depending on the species and the amount of bedding used, may help build and maintain soil organic matter levels. Because of the wide variability of the characteristics of manures, even from the same species—depending on feeding, bedding, and manure handling practices—it is important to analyze manures to more accurately judge the needed application rates. When using manures, it is important to keep in mind the potential limitations—pathogen contamination of crops for direct human consumption; accumulations of potentially toxic metals from high application of certain manures; and overloading the soil with N or P by applying rates that are in excess of needs, as demonstrated by soil test and known crop uptake.


Cimitile, M. 2009. Crops absorb livestock antibiotics, science shows. Environmental Health News.

Elliott, L.F., and F.J. Stevenson, eds. 1977. Soils for Management of Organic Wastes and Waste-waters. Madison, WI: Soil Science Society of America.

Endres, M.I., and K.A. Janni. Undated. Compost Bedded Pack Barns for Dairy Cows.

Harrison, E., J. Bonhotal, and M. Schwarz. 2008. Using Manure Solids as Bedding. Report prepared by the Cornell Waste Management Institute (Ithaca, NY) for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Madison, F., K. Kelling, J. Peterson, T. Daniel, G. Jackson, and L. Massie. 1986. Guidelines for Applying Manure to Pasture and Cropland in Wisconsin. Agricultural Bulletin A3392. Madison, WI.

Magdoff, F.R., and J.F. Amadon. 1980. Yield trends and soil chemical changes resulting from N and manure application to continuous corn. Agronomy Journal 72: 161–164. See this reference for dairy manure needed to maintain or increase organic matter and soil chemical changes under continuous cropping for silage corn.

Magdoff, F.R., J.F. Amadon, S.P. Goldberg, and G.D. Wells. 1977. Runoff from a low-cost manure storage facility. Transactions of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers 20: 658–660, 665. This is the reference for the nutrient loss that can occur from uncovered manure stacks.

Magdoff, F.R., and R.J. Villamil, Jr. 1977. The Potential of Champlain Valley Clay Soils for Waste Disposal. Proceedings of the Lake Champlain Environmental Conference, Chazy, NY, July 15, 1976.

Maryland State Soil Conservation Committee. Undated. Manure Management Handbook: A Producer’s Guide. College Park, MD: Author.

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. 1994. Livestock and Poultry Waste Management. Best Management Practices Series. Available from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. 1997. Nutrient Management. Best Management Practices Series. Available from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Pimentel, D., S. Williamson, C.E. Alexander, O. Gonzalez-Pagan, C. Kontak, and S.E. Mulkey. 2008. Reducing energy inputs in the US food system. Human Ecology 36: 459–471.

Soil Conservation Society of America. 1976. Land Application of Waste Materials. Ankeny, IA: Author.

van Es, H.M., A.T. DeGaetano, and D.S. Wilks. 1998. Space-time upscaling of plot-based research information: Frost tillage. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 50: 85–90.

Table of Contents