Silage leachate, or fermented juices, created from silage can escape from storage and degrade the quality of ground and surface water sources. It is vital that the silage harvested is well maintained by storing forage at the optimum moisture content and covering silage facilities to encourage proper fermentation, preserve forage quality, and minimize losses to the environment.
Silage leachate contains high concentrations of nutrients and acid and when leachate is allowed to contaminate surface and ground water, the excessive nutrients cause algae blooms and odor issues, degrading the water quality and aquatic habitats. Leachate runoff not only affects aquatic life, but that of humans and other animals as well if the contaminated water is used for drinking. The high acidity levels also corrode metals and concrete over time. This can be a financial concern for farmers with cement pads or other metal structures that will need more frequent maintenance.
The best type of system to manage silage leachate would be one that is designed to transfer both high and low flow rates of leachate to an existing approved storage and land applied in accordance with a nutrient management plan. Another acceptable system is one designed to collect low flow rates of silage for field application and dilute leachate that leaves the pad/storage area during rain events to be treated with a vegetative filter area (VTA). VTAs are areas of vegetation used to slow water flow with dense and vigorous vegetation of grasses, shrubs, or trees, which traps the sediments and pollutants from runoff and waste. To increase effectiveness, sediment that accumulates should be removed and/or the filter areas regarded every few years to maintain proper water flow.
Contact the Soil and Water Conservation District at (607) 756-5991 if you have questions or concerns regarding silage leachate control.