Hogs and other livestock produce billions of tons
of manure each year. Researchers are checking to see if conservation measures
can ensure that this manure can be applied in the winter without harm to water
liquid swine manure to part of this Ohio hillside (the dark area at right).
They left a downhill buffer area free of manure. Runoff will collect in the
sampling shed at left, so it can later be analyzed for sediment, nutrients and
pathogens. Photo courtesy
ARS, EPA Partner to Protect Watersheds
Comis March 27, 2007
This winter, scientists in the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) North Appalachian Experimental
Watershed Unit (NAEW) at
Coshocton, Ohio, applied various animal manures to check water quality effects.
They wanted to know whether leaving land manure-free near the edges of fields
will ensure that winter manure applications are environmentally sound.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is collaborating in these studies as part of
that agency's efforts to partner with agricultural scientists for the benefit
of farmers and the environment. EPA is concerned about water pollution from
manure runoff over frozen soil.
ARS hydraulic engineer
Bonta and soil scientists
Shipitalo supervised the application of liquid swine manure and turkey
litter manure to cornfields on four small watersheds, and of beef cattle manure
slurry to four grass plots. Surface runoff is collected by Coshocton Wheel
samplers to be analyzed for quality and to determine volume. Runoff volumes are
measured at the watersheds using flumes. ARS scientists analyze water for
nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as oxygen depletion.
NAEW researchers have been testing runoff for many years. EPA
partially funds this new study, supporting ARS technician
Buxtonwho does the water samplingand paying for supplies and
training. Buxton sends samples to the EPA Research and Development Office in
Cincinnati, Ohio. There, microbiologist John Haines and environmental engineer
Shane Rogers analyze samples for E. coli and enterococci pathogens.
Enterococci bacteria have replaced fecal coliform bacteria as indicators of the
likely presence of other pathogens in water that can also infect people.
The ARS-EPA partnership gives the Coshocton lab funding support and
the capability to monitor pathogens, while EPA gains a site ready-made for the
study, complete with instruments already in place and researchers with decades
of experience in testing for runoff nutrients. The goal is to find a way to
avoid the costs farmers now incur from storing manure over winter, while
keeping environmental impacts at a minimum.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.