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Soil Scientist Ed Taylor gave a presentation on soil at the Government Center last week. He used a sponge as a visual aid to show how soil retains water.

A soil scientist recently gave a presentation at the Government Center stating there are risks as well as benefits, it all depends on management.

The large scale livestock ad-hoc committee or as some have dubbed it ‘the CAFO committee’ listened to a presentation by soil scientist Ed Taylor last week.

Taylor has worked for the state government as well as in the private sector in crop consulting, erosion control and recently as a wastewater specialist with the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS.) He describes himself as a “free range soil scientist.”

His presentation began with a lengthy discussion on soil science then shifted to Burnett County soil and finished with the effect of liquid manure on soil. Taylor said the effects of spreading liquid manure can be hazardous to soil depending on the management of the soil.

He said for minimum risk of contamination liquid manure should be spread on fine soil with deep saturation levels and the maximum risk is if liquid manure is spread on sandy soil with shallow saturation levels.

He added there are risks and benefits to spreading liquid manure. The benefits include an increase in organic material in soil and is used as a nutrient and water supplement for crops. The risks include an excess of nitrates can make its way into the groundwater and transmit diseases and parasites. It also eutrophicates the surface water, meaning a body of water becomes too enriched with the spread of algae.

“It all comes down to management of the fields,” Taylor said.

Committee chair and county administrator Nate Ehalt said this was the “first of many presentations over the next three months.”

CAFOs or controlled animal feeding operations have been on the top of a lot of residents’ minds since a CAFO of 26,000 pigs was proposed in Trade Lake. The committee is tasked to look at side effects of CAFOs including water and air quality.

Taylor is one of a handful of experts the committee has called to educate them on potential side effects of a CAFO.

“I’m going to try and teach you four semesters of soil science in an hour,” Taylor said. “There is more than just clay and sand in your backyard.”

Taylor explained the basic soil components and processes. The biosphere, atmosphere and geosphere all play a part in soil, which is defined as a thin layer at the surface of the earth where these three spheres interact.

The biosphere is water, nutrients or carbon, basically living things, and the atmosphere is the carbon in the air. That leaves the geosphere or as we think of it, the solid earth beneath us.

Those three spheres combine to make up what’s in soil.

He also outlined how water moves through soil and gave the committee examples of how long it would take an amount of water to move through a soil based on its density.

Next Taylor talked briefly about the soil in Burnett County. All of the county, like much of Wisconsin, was covered by glaciers hundreds of years ago and the glacial conditions means that the soil beneath can vary greatly.

Taylor did not go out and study the soil of Burnett County, however, he put together a number of maps common among the land in water services people attending the presentation. Along with the committee members, a handful of citizens also attended the meeting.

Their next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 22 at 1:30 p.m. in the Government Center. They will be hearing from Paul La Liberte from Wisconsin’s Green Fire, a group that “supports the conservation legacy of Wisconsin by promoting science-based management of Wisconsin’s natural resources.”