University of Illinois Extension specialists are developing a low-cost manure application system so producers can calculate and record how much and where they spread manure.

“We’re building a low-cost yet effective system that will incorporate a hand-held, consumer-available GPS (global positioning system) unit, a portable computer and mapping software, such as FarmWorks or ArcPad,” says Jay Solomon, Extension educator from East Peoria, IL.

The ultimate goal is for the system to use the GPS unit data to sense when to turn the applicator off and on automatically when nearing non-application zones such as streams or wells.

Manure application data collected will be used to generate “as applied” maps for producers and other manure applicators.

Solomon is optimistic that a data collection system costing around $2,500 can be developed.

This type of data helps farmers in two ways, he says. First, it can give farmers an accurate record of manure application to better analyze yield problems from year to year or variation across the field.

Second, it provides computer records to document manure application practices should a neighbor file a complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency, he says.

Also, what’s learned about mapping manure applications can eventually be applied to other practices such as chemical spraying.