Rapid sensing of dairy manure nutrients for precision applications in agricultural production

This research focuses on precise manure utilization on agricultural land, which addresses two of the BIOAg priorities: organic waste management and building soil quality. Excess manure application can adversely affect water quality, while under-application lowers crop yield potential. Precision application of manure requires information on its nutrients but the existing reliable nutrient determination methods are unsuitable for real-time applications. This project will evaluate the potential of near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) for determination of nutrients composition of dairy manure, as a first step towards development of a precision manure application system. Manure will be collected from different dairy farms and the effective spectral bands for predicting available nutrients (N and P) in the manure will be determined from spectral and ground reference data. Selected bands will be used in developing a custom sensing module, further validation of which will lead towards achieving variable rate manure applications. This technology will enable farmers to precisely apply manure in the field at desired agronomic rates. The long-term impacts from commercialization and adoption of NIR sensor based precision manure application will be improved protection of water quality and crop yield, both of which promote sustainable organic farming.

Grant Information

  • Project Status: Complete



Based on the completed work, our team presented a paper at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) at Orlando, Florida, in the summer, entitled “Evaluation of near infrared spectroscopy for rapid sensing of dairy manure nutrients”. We also are presenting a poster at the 2017 annual meeting of the ASABE in July 16-19 in Spokane, Washington, entitled “Identification of potential near infrared spectral bands for rapid sensing of dairy manure nutrients”. In addition, we have submitted a refined and expanded version of presented work for peer review and publication consideration to “Biosystems Engineering” [manuscript # YBENG_2017_15] with a title “Application of near infrared spectroscopy for rapid determination of dairy manure nutrients.”

Additional Funds Leveraged

Our team applied for additional funding from “the Organic Transitions (ORG) competitive grants program of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)”, titled “On-the-go dairy manure nutrients monitoring system for precision applications in crop production.” The review panel thought this was a great proposal and encouraged us to define how this technology differs from what is now available and consider submission to more appropriate NIFA programs, such as Agricultural Engineering and Biosystems or the SBIR. Early this year, we addressed the comments from previous review panel and submitted a new proposal to USDA-NIFA Agricultural Engineering program, titled “Measurement device of manure-nutrients in real-time for precision applications in crop production fields.”


• Short-Term: This project has trained one Ph.D. graduate student (Iftikhar Zeb), through direct involvement in all the activities of the project. The findings are already being disseminated via: peer reviewed journal, presentations at national meetings, and extension events/conferences.
• Intermediate-Term: (1) Development of cost-effective rapid device for determining dairy manure nutrients levels, (2) Manure applications on agricultural land based on known concentrations of nutrients, promoting environmentally and economically sound farm practices, and (3) This work lays the foundation of a more comprehensive precision manure application technology.
• Long-Term: The outcomes of this project will aid our team and other researchers in development, testing and promotion of precision manure nutrient application technology on conventional and organic farm lands. Precision manure-nutrients application will promote environmentally sound farm practices, a key focus of USDA-NIFA, enhancing sustainability of organic farming, and improved livestock waste management on dairy operations, while improving soil quality and fertility. Overall, the technology will aid farmers to follow site-specific crop management that will reduce production costs and potentially reduce water and air pollution from excess manure (nutrient) applications.