Farmers harvesting corn silage urged to store it in a way that protects water
Published: July 25, 2012 by the Central Office
Contact(s): Russ Rasmussen – 608-267-7651
MADISON -- As crop producers consider harvesting their corn crop ravaged by the drought for silage instead of grain, state environmental officials are urging them to store the silage in a way that protects both their product and the environment.
"We know salvaging as much of the crop as possible and planning for livestock feed is really important for state farmers. A few simple steps can assure that feed is preserved and the farmer's land and water resources are protected against unintended problems," says Russ Rasmussen, deputy administrator of the Department of Natural Resources Water Division.
Improperly stored silage can result in leachate that has the potential to contaminate both surface and ground water. Rasmussen says state natural resources and agriculture officials suggest that farmers consider following recommendations for storing silage in the field:
- if known, allow at least five feet of soil between the ground surface and bedrock;
- do not stack within 1,000 feet of a lake, sinkhole or quarry;
- do not stack within 300 feet of a stream, wetland or surface inlet;
- do not stack within 250 feet of a potable well;
- do not stack within 100 feet of concentrated flow channels or floodplains;
- do not stack where the land slopes away from the stacking site by 6 percent or more; and
- if possible, use the stored silage within six months.
Recommendations are based on best practice studies and federal standards for temporary unconfined stacks of manure.
"If following a recommended separation distance isn't practical, farmers should stack the silage as far away as possible from the feature of concern," Rasmussen said.
If stacking for longer than several weeks, producers can also help reduce impacts to water by creating a small berm around the stack to contain leachate and runoff. They should also consider covering or enclosing the silage stack with plastic, which will help prevent water from entering the silage, protecting the silage reducing the chances for leachate formation and runoff.
Rasmussen notes DNR is working on additional guidance specifically for concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, because of their volume and particular operating needs. That guidance should be available by August 1.