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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Food Animal Environmental Systems Research Unit

2010 Annual Report

1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
Increase the current effort to develop and evaluate management practices and treatment technologies that reduce air emissions of ammonia and odor causing compounds from animal production operations, manure storage areas, and field application sites. The overall goal of the research project formulated in a real partnership between ARS and Western Kentucky University (WKU) is to conduct cost effective and problem solving research associated with animal waste management. The research will evaluate management practices and treatment strategies that protect water quality, reduce atmospheric emissions, and control pathogens at the animal production facilities, manure storage areas, and field application sites, particularly for the unique karst topography. This Project is a unique situation in the sense that non-ARS scientists from a university are included in a research project to conduct research under the same National Program. Hence, to achieve the ultimate goal of this project, the integration and coordination of scientific expertise of the scientists from ARS and WKU are required within and across all objectives. The objectives and related specific sub-objectives are organized according to the three major components (Nutrient, Emission, and Pathogen) of the National Program 206, which mostly apply to this project. The specific objectives for the next 5 years are:

Nutrient Component Objective 1: Develop management practices and decision tools for long-term use of animal manure as an alternative source of fertilizer for forages and row crops with regard to the following factors: Impacts on crop yield, nutrient loading, availability and uptake, application rate and timing, tillage, methods of application, soil quality, and soil carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions. Objective 2: Determine if nutrient loading from agricultural watersheds in karst terrain is a function of physical watershed characteristics.

Emission Component Objective 3: Reduce odiferous emissions by developing innovative molecular-based methods to identify and quantify microorganisms and biological activities responsible for production of odorous compounds in livestock wastes. Objective 4: Develop new analytical approaches to quantify gases (e.g. methane, H2S), volatile odor compounds (e.g. p-cresol, skatole, and other VOCs) and evaluate treatment technologies for odor abatement at animal production facilities and manure-applied fields. Pathogen Component Objective 5: Employ molecular-based methods to improve detection, quantification, and evaluation of transport, and survival of pathogens including Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 from animal manure. Also, compare survival of these pathogens with indicator organisms through a series of laboratory and watershed studies.

1b.Approach (from AD-416)
This research project was conceived as a cooperative/partnership and comprehensive research program between USDA-ARS Animal Waste Management Research Unit (AWMRU) and Western Kentucky University (WKU). The research is designed to utilize the scientific expertise and facilities of both institutions to conduct problem-solving research related to the animal waste management in Kentucky and the Southeastern US. The research effort will be multi-disciplinary and multifaceted in support of decision making and systems development. Research focuses will be on all three components (Nutrient, Atmospheric Emission, and Pathogens) of the National Program 206. State-of-the-art laboratories and equipments exist at both AWMRU and WKU, which can be accessed by the scientists. Main instruments include: ICP, GC-MS, Lachat, C/N Analyzer, Real time PCR, etc.

3.Progress Report
Development was begun on a novel anaerobic digestion process wherein waste is re-circulated through a silicone membrane contained in an aerobic tank containing a minimal nutrient microbial growth medium. While the original intent of this research was to reduce malodorants and greenhouse gases (GHG) in swine waste slurries, we found that in addition to expected malodor reductions, the system improved biogas quality by reducing carbon dioxide levels. At the same time, bicarbonate buffering in the wastewater was increased which may decrease anaerobic digesters susceptibility to crashes due to excessive wastewater acidification.

A method for the collection of water and dissolved gases was field tested in a campaign lasting 12 months. The technique, which involved fitting peristaltic tubing to a gas-tight vessel fitted with a gas-tight check valve inlet and ball valve outlet used a length of silicone hose as a gas-permeable void within the vessel for gas analysis. The sampling tubing was lowered to the desired depth, water pumped through the vessel and the ball valve closed to retain pressure in the vessel. After gas equilibration, samples were retrieved for water quality and dissolved gas analysis. Using this method, we demonstrate clear seasonal differences in dissolved methane concentrations in a reservoir known to undergo thermal stratification. Seasonal differences in nitrogen dynamics, pH and manganese concentration further demonstrated the utility of this technique for water collection. Meteorological monitoring equipment was deployed on a swine rearing facility in Daviess County. Sampling of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) from a waste treatment lagoon on the facility was also conducted. These efforts are the preliminary steps of a wider campaign to monitor emission of GHG, VOC, particulate matter and reactive gaseous species from a large facility with varied waste handling schemes. In addition, preliminary tests of the producer’s composting facility have begun. This research is aimed at optimizing the composting process so as to add value to the final product. Studies were conducted in collaboration with scientists at the Miner Institute in New York to evaluate the sensitivity of two pathogens (Salmonella enterica and Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (M. paratuberculosis) and the indicator organism (Escherichia coli) to conditions of ensiling (i.e., low pH and high organic acids). These studies will be completed in FY 2010. Results will be presented at 2 meetings in 2010 and publications have been started. Also, in collaboration with the Kentucky Department of Water, we are conducting studies to evaluate the diversity of Escherichia (E.) coli in animal manures and watersheds. Strains of E. coli are being tested for transport properties and the presence of virulence and adherence factors.

1. Trough’s as a Hidden Source of Johne’s Disease. Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (M. paratuberculosis) is the causative agent of Johne’s disease, a chronic enteric infection that affects ruminants. Despite the ubiquitous occurrence of Mycobacterium sp. in nature and the fact that Johne’s disease has been reported worldwide, little research has been done to assess its survival in agricultural environments. We evaluated the ability of M. paratuberculosis to become established and persist on surfaces of common livestock watering trough materials (plastic, concrete, galvanized and stainless steel). Results show that trough material composition influenced the survival of M. paratuberculosis with the lowest survival exhibited on stainless steel, followed by plastic, galvanized steel and concrete. To inhibit spread of this organism and exposure of susceptible animals to M. paratuberculosis on infected farms, best management practices aimed at maintaining biofilm-free trough surfaces should be included in any Johne’s control plan.

2. Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions from Soil Applied Swine Effluent by Different Methods. Because of concerns associated with the impact of anthropogenic greenhouse gas production on global climate change, it is important to assess the magnitude of GHG emission from various human activities. Animal manure management has been identified as a significant contributor to atmospheric GHG concentrations. The USEPA (2008) estimated that manure management is responsible for 24% of the CH4 and 5% of the N2O emitted by U.S. agricultural activities. Researchers from ARS unit in Bowling Green, KY, along with scientists from University of Kentucky conducted field experiments to compare GHG emissions from swine effluent that was injected, surface applied or applied in combination with aeration in a no-till corn grain production system. Results indicated that method by which swine effluent is applied for no-till corn grain production can have a significant influence on GHG emission after application. The data suggests that effluent incorporation through aeration or injection application will increase the amount of CH4 emitted after application, compared to surface application. All N source applications resulted in significantly larger N2O emissions compared to the control. However, differences among N source application methods were inconsistent. It was documented that application method needs to be considered when evaluating the impact of liquid manure management on GHG emission when it is utilized for crop production. Farmers can use research results to select the proper method for manure application.

3. System for Estimating Bowen Ratio and Evaporation from Waste Lagoons. Factors that control emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and greenhouse gases (GHG) from animal waste treatment lagoons are poorly understood. Also it has been estimated that methods currently used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to estimate GHG from these lagoons may underestimate methane emissions by as much as 65% (2010). Researchers from ARS along with scientists from Western Kentucky University developed a system for estimating heat fluxes (emission of heat and water vapor) from waste treatment lagoons. The system consisted of humidity and temperature sensors and anemometers deployed above the lagoon as well as water temperature sensors. Using the system, the researchers were able to characterize fluxes of heat and water vapor from a lagoon. Wind speeds above the lagoon were highest in the afternoon. Wind speed variations were linked to lagoon temperature stratification which became more pronounced as wind speeds increased. Temperature stratification at the lagoon indicated increased heat exchange at the lagoon's interface with the atmosphere. During the night, the stratification disappeared and temperatures in the water column were almost identical down to about 60 cm. This behavior is similar to that observed in other shallow water bodies. Lagoon heating was driven by the daily cycle of solar radiation and net radiation. Bowen ratios showed diurnal behavior near the lagoon surface characterized by negative values during day and positive ones at night. Heat fluxes were towards the atmosphere and the lagoon, respectively for most of the day. Heat flux measurements, in conjunction with emissions monitoring, may be used to develop models describing GHG and VOC emissions. These results are important for characterizing the thermal behavior of lagoons leading to a better representation of processes responsible for emissions.

4. Development and Testing of a New Weighting Method for Fitting Models to Phosphorus (P) Sorption Data. The use of unweighted least-squares (ULS) regression is the most common method for fitting models to P sorption data. New approaches are needed when weighting sorption data in regression analysis because in most sorption studies both dependent and independent variables will have uncertainty associated with them. A researcher from ARS in Bowling Green, Kentucky, along with a scientist from Vanderbilt University, investigated whether the use of unweighted least squares regression yields accurate parameter estimates when fitting sorption models to P sorption data. They modified a relatively unknown regression method to specifically account for correlated errors in conditions representative of sorption data. The accuracy of this method was assessed using Monte Carlo simulations and high-replication sorption data. Findings showed that the modified weighting method provided superior parameter estimates and uncertainties compared with ULS or traditional weighted least-squares regression methods. Furthermore, they demonstrated that by using their modified weighting method, the value of the weighted sum of squared errors follows a chi-square distribution and therefore can be used as an objective criterion for assessing model fits. This research resulted in a new method for accurately weighting sorption data and clearly demonstrated the limitations in traditional weighting approaches as well as the problems inherent in using unweighted data. Also, using this approach on multiple data sets the researchers showed that the Langmuir model, which is the most common model for analyzing P sorption to soils, is rarely the best model to use.

5. Correlating Transport Behavior with Cell Properties for Eight Porcine Escherichia coli (E. coli) Isolates. Under the new Ground Water Rule, E. coli is one of only three indicators the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has established for determining whether a ground water source used as a public water supply is fecally contaminated. Given the importance of E. coli as an indicator of fecal contamination in ground water systems, research has focused on the various biological, geochemical, and physical factors affecting E. coli transport through porous media. Recent studies have shown that a large diversity exists in the transport behavior among different strains of E. coli yet the source of this diversity is unknown. In this study researchers from ARS in Bowling Green, KY, along with scientists from the University of California at Riverside investigated the role that cell properties has on the diversity in transport behavior among different E. coli isolates. The authors collected several hundred E. coli isolates from a swine lagoon and through genetic analysis identified eight isolates that represented the majority of collected isolates. The authors measured the cell properties and transport behavior of these isolates and performed transport experiments through aquifer sands. They found that E. coli transport through negatively-charged aquifer sands was inversely related to the surface charge of the bacteria. They also demonstrated the importance of including multiple attachment parameters when modeling E. coli. Because E. coli is one of the most commonly used indicators of fecal contamination, a better understanding of the factors controlling its movement in the subsurface is required. This research adds to that knowledge base and has resulted in an invited talk at EPA in Washington, DC.

6. Ammonia and Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) from Land Application of Swine Slurry: A comparison of three application methods. The traditional practice of land application using animal liquid manure for fertilization purpose is by spraying. This method can lead to major losses of essential nutrients for crops such as nitrogen and carbon compounds. This technique can also create a major emission problem in dispersing malodorous and other gaseous compounds in the air (i.e., ammonia and GHG). Researchers from ARS unit in Bowling Green, KY, along with scientists from the University Kentucky conducted experiments to elucidate the effect of different application methods on ammonia and GHG gas emissions. The goal was to monitor the initial and subsequent ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions from three different liquid swine manure application methods at a farm in Kentucky which had been cropped in a no-till corn/soybean rotation, using flux chambers and a gas analyzer. Results showed that, in terms of greenhouse potency factor as normalized to carbon dioxide equivalency where methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide is 298 times more potent than carbon dioxide, surface spray method has the highest total greenhouse potency factor based on non-linear method of calculating flux follow by Aerway and Row injection methods during the first four hours after application. The surface spray method emitted about four times more than the Aerway injection and about 31 times more than the row injection method in greenhouse potency factor. Based on these data, the types of swine effluent application can have a significant initial impact on the ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions. The results from these experiments will serve as the guiding principles for delineating potential factors that may affect the emissions from these various land application methods of liquid livestock wastes.

5.Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
May 12, 2010 Presentation on microbial concentrations in Bacon Creek Watershed given to River Basin Team for Kentucky Department of Water.

Unit scientist served on a special committee that is being tasked to make recommendations to NRCS for updating their 590 standards.

Review Publications
Bolster, C.H. 2010. On the Significance of Properly Weighting Sorption Data for Least Squares Analysis. Soil Science Society of America Journal. 74:670-679

Cook, K.L., Rothrock Jr, M.J., Sorrell, J., Lovanh, N.C., Loughrin, J.H. 2010. Spatial and Temporal Changes in the Microbial Community in an Anaerobic Swine Waste Treatment Lagoon. Anaerobe. 16:74-82.

Sistani, K.R., Bolster, C.H., Way, T.R., Torbert III, H.A., Pote, D.H., Watts, D.B. 2010. Influence of Poultry Litter Application Methods on the Longevity of Nutrient and E. coli in Runoff from Tall Fescue Pasture. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution. 206:3-12.

Sistani, K.R., Warren, J., Lovanh, N.C., Higgins, S., Shearer, S. 2010. Greenhouse gas emissions from swine effluent applied to soil by different methods. Soil Science Society of America Journal. 74:429-435.

Cook, K.L., Britt, J., Bolster, C.H. 2010. Survival of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis in Biofilms on Livestock Watering Trough Materials. Veterinary Microbiology. 141(1):103-109.

Gong, A.S., Bolster, C.H., Benavides, M., Walker, S.L. 2009. Extraction and Analysis of Extracellular Polymeric Substances (EPS): Comparison of Methods and EPS Levels in Salmonella pullorum SA 1685. Environmental Engineering Science. 26:1523-1532.

Cook, K.L. 2010. Survival of the Causative Agent of Johne’s Disease (Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis) in Biofilms on Trough Materials. Natural Resources Research Update (NRRU). Update #1.

Bolster, C.H., Cook, K.L., Marcus, I.M., Haznedaroglu, B.Z., Walker, S.L. 2010. Correlating Transport Behavior with Cell Properties for Eight Porcine Escherichia coli Isolates. Environmental Science and Technology. 44(13):5008–5014.

Tellinghuisen, J., Bolster, C.H. 2010. Least-Squares Analysis of Phosphorus Soil Sorption Data with Weighting from Variance Function Estimation: A Statistical Case for the Freundlich Isotherm. Environmental Science and Technology. 44(13):5029-5034.

Jacobs, J., Lowery, B., Choi, M., Bolster, C.H. 2009. GOES Solar Radiation for Evapotranspiration Estimation and Streamflow Predictions. Journal Hydrologic Engineering. 14(3):293-300.

Tellinghuisen, J., Bolster, C.H. 2009. Weighting formulas for the least-squares analysis of binding phenomena data. Journal of Physical Chemistry. 113:6151-6157.

Cook, K.L., Bolster, C.H., Britt, J., Rothrock Jr, M.J. 2010. Effect of Watering Trough Chlorination on Persistence of Mycobacterium avium subsp. Paratuberculosi. Bovine Practitioner Journal. 44(1):69-76.

Lovanh, N.C., Warren, J.G., Sistani, K.R. 2009. Determination of Ammonia and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Land Application of Swine Slurry: A Comparison of Three Application Methods. Bioresource Technology. 101:1662–1667.

Last Modified: 4/17/2014
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