Much is being learned about manure treatments from wide-ranging, exhaustive research underway in North Carolina. But, to date, no effective and economical alternative to lagoons and sprayfields has been identified. Investment, maintenance and operating expenses make the technologies costly to varying degrees. This may change by altering technologies and developing income-generating byproduct uses. They mainly are solids, which are separated from liquids by most of the technologies.

At current costs of the “alternative technologies”, pork production costs in North Carolina would escalate considerably, and it would greatly harm the state’s competitiveness with other pork-producing states, say researchers. As a matter of fact, economists have projected each technology’s potential impact on North Carolina’s pork-industry competitiveness if all of the state’s producers adopted it.

Eighteen alternative technologies are being evaluated in a 15-step process. Thousands of hours have already been devoted by scores of specialists in various fields. The reviewers are with North Carolina State University, other institutions and technology suppliers. In the process, they may combine features of multiple technologies to create a more cost-effective option.

The study is receiving $15 million from Smithfield Foods and $2.5 million from Premium Standard Farms under agreements with the North Carolina Attorney General. An organization of contract hog producers in eastern North Carolina, Frontline Farmers, also signed on to help in non-financial ways.

Research goals, as pre-specified in the agreements, are to find technologies that will accomplish all the necessary tasks. These include: substantially eliminate odor emissions, ammonia emissions into the atmosphere, release of disease-transmitting vectors and airborne pathogens, nutrient and heavy metal contamination of soil and groundwater.

Additional considerations are being identified for each candidate technology. These include: necessary land acreage, operator time, operator expertise and  reuse of waste water

Environmental performance data has been collected on eight of the 18 technologies being farm-tested. Already, two definitely comply with state permitting requirements and others are expected to qualify.  Economic analyses are being conducted on all of the technologies.

North Carolina State economists are developing models to project each technology’s cost when used in hog operations of 21 different types and sizes, with existing and new facilities.

Under the agreement with the state’s Attorney General, Smithfield and Premium Standard are committed to implement one or more approved technologies on company-owned farms. Together they own about 10 percent of the hog farms in North Carolina and about 15 percent of the state’s swine.

A 1,000-page progress report on the research is available on North Carolina State University’s Animal and Poultry Waste Management Center Web site at www.cals.ncsu.edu/waste_mgt/