As I mentioned last week, there was going to be more information on the manure/mulch project for which our FFA is partnering with UNL. On Tuesday, three of my siblings, my father, an Extension educator, two UNL students and I set up the test plots on our land. The students, Augustin and Carla, had come out a week before and measured out the plots. We used a map that blocked out each of the three different groups. Mulch, manure, and the combination of the two were replicated four times for accuracy. Just like any good scientific procedure, there was a control that was also replicated four times.
My siblings and I learned how to carry out a higher level experiment. One aspect that never occurred to me was that we had to make sure that the same amount of manure was spread throughout the field in the correct plots. To make sure that we were being consistent throughout the manure and the combined treatment groups, we placed rain gauges to measure the amount of manure being spread. It took some great skill of driving a tractor with a honey wagon for my dad to not run over the rain gauges, I was certainly impressed we only lost one rain gauge.
Once the manure was laid, my brother, Andrew, took a tractor with a loader bucket and scooped up mulch as I took a pitchfork and made sure it was full and leveled it off once it was put in the dry spreader. To make sure that there was an even application of the mulch, we laid tarps down and measured the weight of the chips applied. It turned out that we had to go over the field twice to get the desired 20 pound of mulch applied. Shortly after all the treatments were applied, the field was planted. It took a good portion of the day to get everything done and our sunburnt faces showed for it.
I think I can speak on behalf of everyone that we are excited to see the results of this project. The goal of this experiment is to see if the mulch prevents volatilization of nitrogen from the manure while holding in moisture. As always, stay safe and healthy. — Elizabeth Hodges