NIRS technology to improve manure test accuracy

A new fast and cost effective method of manure analysis which can more accurately assess the nutrient content could help farmers reduce costs.

Near Infra Red Spectroscopy (NIRS) technology which has been calibrated against traditional testing methods analyses dry matter, total nitrogen, ammonium-nitrogen, phosphate, potash, magnesium and sulphur. It can also predict the nitrogen released from manures by mineralisation.

The method is accurate and rapid and with escalating costs of artificial fertiliser, this technology could allow farmers to more accurately predict and manage what is being applied on to land, which could help them save money, according to Andrew Scott, business unit manager from Eurofins who developed the technology.

Speaking at Grassland and Muck 2011, Mr Scott said good nutrient management could save time and money. “This means growers require a rapid and robust method for quantifying nutrients and their availability in manures, in particular taking account of nitrogen release.”

NIRS is already used to analyse silage and wheat and barley grain, but a Link-funded project has now made it possible for slurry. And at a cost of £22 compared to traditional wet chemistry methods at £40 it is not only more accurate, it is also more cost effective, added Eurofin’s Stephen Shelley.

And farmers really should be getting slurry analysed as part of their manure management plans, said Nigel Penlington, BPEX environment programme manager.

“It costs a lot of money to produce manure and it is a valuable resource, so farmers need to make the most of it.

“This analysis technique enables farmers to manage valuable plant nutrients with greater confidence, knowing more precisely what they are applying to the land.

“The key is that they can make informed decisions about where and when to use their manure or slurry, whether it be as part of their grassland management or to the benefit of an arable enterprise.”



But in order to get the most accurate manure analysis it is important to take a representative sample. “The NVZ guidance has a protocol for taking slurry samples, it’s not just a case of getting the nearest sample. How many samples to take a year also depends on individual farms, but a change in diet, for example can all effect on the nutrient value of the slurry,” he said.


* For more stories, pictures and videos from Grassland & Muck 2011.


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