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Agriculture

Published on May 20th, 2008 | by Sarah Lozanova

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3 Reasons Manure is Becoming a Cash Crop

May 20th, 2008 by  


organic farming chemical fertilizerYou know that times are changing when farmers look to manure as a valuable commodity. Pretty soon, manure from a herd may be more profitable than the beef itself. Manufactured fertilizers has tripled in price in the last year, driving farmers to look for alternatives. This is certainly an indicator of a shifting economy.

1. Energy Prices

Fertilizers are a very energy intensive product. Nitrogen fertilizers are commonly made from petroleum or natural gas. The potash and phosphates in the fertilizers are derived from mining, which also requires a lot of energy. Finally, the finished product needs to be transported and we know all about high gas prices.

2. Fertilizer Demand in China and India

China and India have increasingly been depending on fertilizer, causing a spike in demand. The price of fertilizer has climbed to $750 a ton.

3. Bans on U.S. Beef

In December, 2003 the U.S. beef export market saw a steep decline. Mexico, Canada, Japan, and Korea comprise over 90% of the beef export market in the U.S., with all countries significantly reducing beef imports in 2004. Japan was the single largest importer of beef and their ban on U.S. beef continues. This is driving cattle farmers to find other valuable uses for their cows, such as fertilizer.

A decreased reliance on manufactured fertilizers and a return to more traditional farming techniques could have its benefits. Algal blooms caused by chemical fertilizers, like the one in the Mississippi delta can harm fish populations. Fertilizers frequently find their way into ground water, thus contaminating drinking water supplies.

The farming industry has been undergoing significant changes from the rise in biofuels, leases for wind farms, and recent scares over food safety. Now some farmers are returning to more traditional methods, such as the use of manure. It makes me wonder, what is next?

Related Posts on Agriculture:

Cows Aren’t Legos: Sassy Insights From an Organic Dairy Farmer

Composting en Masse Helping Fight the Green Fight

Bye Bye Fertilizer, Let Your Waste Work for You 






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About the Author

is passionate about the new green economy and renewable energy. Sarah's experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and is a co-founder of Trees Across the Miles, an urban reforestation initiative. When she can escape the internet vortex, she enjoys playing in the forest, paddling down rivers, or twisting into yoga poses.



  • Benjamin

    I just imagined, new inventions that make the animals “produce” more manure. And this inventions will probably not care about animal-welfare. It gives me creeps.

    Until now I had concerns, about the whole world becoming vegetarian, due to saving water and energy. There won’t be any use for cattle any more and it extincts.

    But now my concerns vanished.

  • Benjamin

    I just imagined, new inventions that make the animals “produce” more manure. And this inventions will probably not care about animal-welfare. It gives me creeps.

    Until now I had concerns, about the whole world becoming vegetarian, due to saving water and energy. There won’t be any use for cattle any more and it extincts.

    But now my concerns vanished.

  • Good point, Rachel!

    This is indeed an old idea, not a new one. As sustainable farmers, we’re constantly finding that our “new bright ideas” were common practice 100 years ago.

    In particular, manure on the traditional family farm was seen as a valuable commodity, and is being viewed that way again. Our livestock operation focuses on our meat (which happens to be rabbit) as a convenient, valuable by-product of the fertilization program for our raspberries.

  • Good point, Rachel!

    This is indeed an old idea, not a new one. As sustainable farmers, we’re constantly finding that our “new bright ideas” were common practice 100 years ago.

    In particular, manure on the traditional family farm was seen as a valuable commodity, and is being viewed that way again. Our livestock operation focuses on our meat (which happens to be rabbit) as a convenient, valuable by-product of the fertilization program for our raspberries.

  • Rachel M.

    This is a really interesting topic. Farmers looking to manure as a valuable commodity seems less a herald of a new era than a return to old practices. When most farming happened on family farms where both crops and livestock were raised, it was traditional to fertilize the fields with manure from the animals.

    My understanding is that it was only with the advent of industrial agriculture and cheap artificial fertilizers in the 1950s that that practice ended, since cows became so far from farms and chemical fertilizer so cheap as to make manure fertilizing not feasible. I think it’d be nothing but good for the environment if the pendulum swung back the other way.

  • Rachel M.

    This is a really interesting topic. Farmers looking to manure as a valuable commodity seems less a herald of a new era than a return to old practices. When most farming happened on family farms where both crops and livestock were raised, it was traditional to fertilize the fields with manure from the animals.

    My understanding is that it was only with the advent of industrial agriculture and cheap artificial fertilizers in the 1950s that that practice ended, since cows became so far from farms and chemical fertilizer so cheap as to make manure fertilizing not feasible. I think it’d be nothing but good for the environment if the pendulum swung back the other way.

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