What We Do
Many farmers do not recognize the importance of recycling manure in cropping systems to improve soil quality and how, through their efforts, they can contribute to environmental sustainability. Dr. Amy Schmidt and the Schmidt Research and Extension Team research the best practices associated with manure management to minimize environmental, social, and human health risks, and supports implementation by farmers through extension outreach activities.
Through research and outreach, Amy is currently looking into helping farmers understand the value of manure as a fertility input to cropping systems. She and her collaborators from the UNL Animal Manure Management (AMM) Team want to see crop farmers recycle locally available manure nutrients before they import chemical fertilizer from outside their region. To demonstrate the value and impacts of manure on soil and crop productivity, Amy and her team are conducting on-farm research at several study sites statewide and offering professional development opportunities to those who advise farmers. These types of experimental learning opportunities provide a way for participants, especially high school students, to become more engaged in training activities.
With the addition of high school extension near these study sites, Amy and her team engage students in experimental learning about manure and soil health. Amy is focused on demonstrating to students the value of on-farm research for discovering new practices to improve manure management and enhance crop productivity. They have developed a curriculum that gives students a hands-on study of the principles they are talking to producers about. Through this outreach, students are reporting greater appreciation for well-designed research, increased interest in conducting agricultural research, and an increased desire to pursue a career in agriculture.
Aside from exhibiting the influence of manure on soil and crop productivity Amy is also working to show the impact of manure management practices on antimicrobial resistance profiles in manure and manure-amended agricultural soils. Antimicrobial resistance has emerged as a global human and animal health threat but is still a relatively new topic among food producers and consumers, which is why Amy is working to educate the public on the subject.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when “germs,” such as bacteria, evolve to resist the effects of the medicines used to treat them. When disease-causing bacteria become resistant to one or more antibiotics, this may lead to ‘treatment failure’, or the inability to treat the cause of the infection, in humans and animals. While AMR is often viewed as being the result of either modern farming or modern medicine practices, Amy’s outreach team prefers to focus on shared responsibility among all people to adopt practices that minimize risks associated with AMR. With her expertise in manure management, farmers who raise livestock are one of her primary audiences for AMR-related research and outreach.
Along with sharing educational information about manure-borne AMR, her team is researching methods to control AMR at critical control points in manure management systems. Recent research includes studying resistance in freshly excreted manure and consolidated feedlot surface material, comparing the effects on AMR of manure stockpiling and composting, and quantifying AMR in agricultural soils receiving feedlot manure from different manure management systems. Doing this research allows Amy’s team to identify best practices for manure management within the “One Health” context, where the health of the environment, people and animals are recognized as being closely connected.
Advocating for agriculture is a huge part of Amy’s role and research at the university. She has been a part of numerous panels and industry efforts to help producers manage manure responsibly and support county-level regulators who are faced with decisions related to agricultural production in their counties. Her ultimate goal is to equip farmers, policymakers, and other stakeholders with the knowledge and skills to make decisions that enhance agricultural sustainability and support responsible management of natural resources. Through her research and education programs, Amy and her team are working to reach this goal.
Originally written by Emi Lesser for BSE Buzz 2/19/2020