Mapping the Pathways for Effective Dissemination and Education between Manure Nutrient Management Agriculture Professionals

Mapping the Pathways for Effective Dissemination and Education between Manure Nutrient Management Agriculture Professionals

Mapping the Pathways Final Report


How does manure nutrient management information flow? The “Pathways” project’s goals were to understand and delineate pathways for effective information dissemination and use among various agricultural professional audiences that facilitate successful integrated (research/outreach/education) projects and programs. The major activity associated with this project was a national survey taken by 964 manure nutrient management professionals addressing the relevance of information sources (inputs), information products (outputs) and collaborators (links). The survey data provided the following insights: (1) the manure nutrient management field is increasingly female; (2) most organizations focus their efforts on one or two tasks related to manure nutrient management; however, University and Extension professionals tended to select more tasks per person than other organizations; (3) the most relevant sources of information among all survey respondents were Farm or Field Setting, Science-based Sites and Consultation, and the least relevant were Research Paper or Technical Document, Classroom Setting and Social Media. Mind-mapping software was used to aggregate the broad array of results. The mind-map exercise was invaluable for the team members involved, but the utility of this map was not completely understood by the larger agricultural professional community when presented in a national webinar. This supports the survey result showing lower relevance for decision tools, but also spurs additional work to further investigate implications of these potential communication links. This project was the cumulative work of a North Central Region team who performed data analysis and mind-mapping, as well as a national team who helped test and refine the survey, and provide feedback on project steps and results throughout. Based on the North Central Region Water Network survey, this work created new collaborations and increased Extension/outreach capacity in the North Central region and beyond.

Purpose or Need

While manure is recognized in the agricultural industry as a valuable source of nitrogen, phosphorus and organic material for plant growth, the point and non-point source discharge of nutrients and bacteria can be substantial if manure is not managed properly. To this end, a significant amount of effort and money has been put into development of manure nutrient management research and programs. Manure nutrient management is also part of several states’ nitrogen and phosphorus reduction strategies for reducing the nutrient load on the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico (Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force, 2008; EPA, 2014).

There are barriers, however, that prevent the flow of important, timely information between research projects and educational programs and the appropriate audience type, thus limiting the impact and usefulness of those efforts. Additionally, education strategies differ between persons and projects (i.e. Shepard, 1999), organizations and regions meaning they need to be received by the end user in the correct format for effective implementation. Furthermore, the success of educational outreach and programs are affected by voluntary versus mandatory adoption (Poe et al., 2001), highlighting the need for tailored programing and content delivery.

A map of the pathways between information producers and users is vital, along with identification of end user format and language necessary for comprehension and implementation. By providing a pathway to audience types and needs, organizations can realistically identify the target groups for specific project outcomes and produce tailored products, information sources, and formats for end users. In addition, this hierarchal pathway allows organizations to select project partners from specific agencies in their regions to communicate with directly and produce a tailored and more impactful product.

Project Goals

The overall goals of this project were to establish documented pathways for effective information dissemination and use among various agricultural professional audiences that facilitate successful integrated (research/outreach/education) projects and programs. The specific goals were:

  1. For North Central Region project team and agricultural professionals to understand how manure nutrient management information is gathered and shared and the barriers to sharing (NCRWN Goal to increase multi- state connectivity and learning among university professionals and partners);
  2. To provide agricultural professionals who develop outreach and education programs the information they need to understand inter-disciplinary terminology around manure nutrient management (NCWRN Goal to build capacity and expand successful Extension programming); and
  3. Develop a model for effective pathways of information dissemination of manure nutrient management from research to implementation (NCWRN Goal to build capacity and expand successful Extension programming).

Methods and Activities

The major activities and methods used to address the project goals were as follows:

  • North Central and National Working Group
    The project team demonstrates collaboration between university researchers, extension educators and partners. The project team consists of a core, North Central Team responsible for the grant activities, as well as a National Team who have consistently provided input to the survey development, data review, and dissemination processes. Table 1 lists the project team members who have contributed through regular meeting participation
  • Monthly web/phone based conference calls were conducted.
  • Survey

Engagement in the project (among other items) was assessed through an end-of-project (EOP) survey administered by the North Central Region Water Network (referred to as the NCRWN EOP survey). There were 10 completed surveys from Project Team and 3 completed by affiliates. The surveys of team members and affiliates were combined for discussion of outcomes.

The purpose of the Pathways Survey was to evaluate the relevancy and barriers to information sources, dissemination methods, and partnerships among organizations. The relevancy questions were measured on a five-point scale, and the barrier questions were ordinal in nature. The survey questionnaire also included personal questions, such as level of knowledge, level of importance, years of experience, type of organizations associated with, age group, gender, and state.

o The Pathways Survey was shared via QuestionPro using a purposeful snowball sampling technique to distribute the online survey instrument, using the mailing lists of several professional and producer organizations and listservs associated with manure management. The survey results were combined with data collected in a South Dakota Pilot Test funded by the South Dakota SARE organization (see information-sharing-and-education-between-agricul for summary).

o Statistical analysis was performed in SPSS using correlation and factor analysis. Being categorical variables, the association between the two variables was calculated using the Spearman’s rho correlation. Factor analysis (principal components extraction with varimax rotation) was used to detect the clusters of variables that were correlated.

o The National and South Dakota Pilot Test surveys were deemed exempt under federal regulation 45 CFR 46.101 (b) and approved by the South Dakota State University Institutional Review Board (IRB-1402010- EXM and IRB-1502001-EXM).

o There were 964 surveys started, with 777 completed in entirety. The respondents were geographically distributed among 49 states (98%), four Canadian provinces (1%) and 1% of respondents did not specify. Over 50% of the responses were from six states: PA (13.2%), SD (9.4%), NE (7.7%), ND (7.2%), OH (7.0%) and OK (6.4%). The distribution in age and gender of respondents are shown in Figure 1. Note the visible trend of increasing female engagement in manure nutrient management in the younger age categories.

Presentation at the 2015 Waste to Worth Conference: “The Pathways Project”

  • The purpose of the presentation was to share the project need, goals and methods with the conference attendees, including those who make or influence environmental management decisions on livestock and poultry farms. The presentation was delivered midway through the survey deployment, so the conference and presentation were also a means to spur survey participation and network development.
  • The presentation was delivered on April 3, 2015. The conference proceedings are available at:

Mind Map Exercise

  • The purpose of this exercise was to graphically depict the links between organizations, based on data generated through the survey. Various software were tried, and ultimately Mind Jet was selected. North Central Team members worked closely to integrate the data analysis results in the map. The Mind Map exercise was hindered in part but the sheer amount of data to convey.
  • The product is available in modifiable pdf form (see Deliverables).

Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center (LPELC) Webinar: “Pathways for Effective Information Transfer Between Manure Management Professionals”

  • The purpose of the webinar was to present the results of a national survey on how manure nutrient management professionals, learn, share and collaborate, and how to use this information to guide information transfer in the future.
  • The webinar was broadcast on November 20, 2015. Recordings of the webinar are archived at
  • An online exit survey was completed by approximately 20 viewers. The survey followed a standard format used by the LPELC, with some additional questions to include civil rights reporting information and application of information. The survey is referred to as the LPELC Webinar survey.
  • Pre-registration was not required. There were 46 sites connected, with 50 viewers. Based on percentage of respondents to the LPELC Webinar Survey, 69% of the audience was male; 93% of the audience was white and 7% Asian.


Goal 1. Strengthen existing or create new collaborations between university researchers and extension educators.

Existing collaborations were strengthened and new relationships were formed between university researchers and extension educators. The indicator is the formation and maintenance of the Project Team shown in Table 1. Project participants included eight different state Extension services, half of which were from the North Central Region. This outcome is further supported by the NCRWN EOP survey. The NCRWN EOP survey indicates that as a result of the Pathways Project, and using a scale of 1 (not at all) to 4 (a large extent), participants increased awareness of people in other states who are working on similar topics (mean = 3.15), formed new working relationships with University extension professionals across states (2.85), deepened existing working relationships with University Extension professionals across states (3.15) and are interested in engaging in future North Central region collaborative efforts (3.00). Qualitative evidence was provided during a Project Team Call, where participants noted the inclusion of Dr. Jacquet and Mr. Kasu on the project team was an introduction for many to the social science perspective, and in turn, an introduction to the wonderful world of manure for the social scientists. Another participant appreciated the expansion from the air quality field she normally works in to the water quality field.

A related indicator of the power of the collaboration crucial in this project was the double in survey responses before and after the 2015 Waste to Worth conference.

Goal 2. Increase multi state connectivity and learning among university professionals and partners.

North Central Region project team and agricultural professionals better understand how manure nutrient management information is gathered and shared and the barriers to sharing was achieved (Project Goal 1). One of the key results of the survey informs this understanding. As shown in Figure 2, the average relevancy of different information sources varied from an average relevance of 3.15 for Field or Farm Setting and Science-Based Sites, to 1.65 for Social Media. Decision Tools ranked lower than expected as well, at an average relevance of 2.53. There were variations in relevance among organizations, but most organizations followed similar trends.

The amount of data collected was substantial, and given the LPELC Webinar: archived webinar is available at information-transfer-between-manure-management-professionals. See LPELC Webinar Evaluation Summary.pdf for evaluation results.


Erin Cortus
Extension Specialist, South Dakota State University