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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SOIL APPLICATION OF AGRICULTURAL WASTE TO IMPROVE CROP PRODUCTION SYSTEMS AND ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY

Location: National Soil Dynamics Laboratory

Project Number: 6420-12000-009-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: May 17, 2005
End Date: May 16, 2010

Objective:
There is an urgent need to develop organic waste management systems in the southeastern United States that preserve and improve the soil resource and provide for environmental quality. The objectives of this project are to: 1) Develop soil phosphorus loading capabilities, following application of animal manure, for soils of the southeastern United States with differing chemical and physical characteristics; 2) Determine the impact of long-term application of poultry litter and other organic waste on soil quality in the southeastern United States; 3) Develop best management practices for manure application to row crops (corn and cotton) that maximize production while minimizing offsite environmental impacts in the southeastern United States; 4) Develop improved knowledge of waste management impacts on manure-derived nutrient interactions (phosphorus solubility and nitrogen mineralization) at the soil surface; and 5) Develop and assess performance of equipment for applying poultry litter in a shallow subsurface bands in pastures and row crops.

Approach:
Soils are the primary resource for agricultural production and their protection and improvement are essential for agriculture in the United States. Application of organic waste to soil can potentially improve soil conditions and provide nutrients needed for plant production. However, poor methods of application of organic waste can lead to nutrient loss from agricultural land by runoff and leaching. These potential non-point source nutrient losses can contribute to environmental degradation, eutrophication of surface waters, and possible human health risks. Because of this growing environmental concern regarding organic waste disposal, field and laboratory studies will be established to develop improved methods to utilize waste products for soil and crop benefits while minimizing environmental degradation. In order to develop effective solutions, basic understanding of these processes must be further developed. Laboratory and field studies will be conducted to determine functional relationships of soil processes and soil dynamics, especially for P and N. Studies will investigate the effects of animal waste application on soil P loading. Relationships for benchmark soils will be developed between soil test P levels in soils receiving animal manure applications and runoff losses of P and N using rainfall simulation plots and small watersheds in the southeastern United States. Studies will be initiated to develop best management practices for manure application and to determine the long-term impact of manure application on soil properties in the southeastern United States. Efforts will also be made to develop equipment and assess its performance for applying poultry litter in a shallow trench in pastures and row crops to reduce nutrient loss potential from the litter. Management practices and fundamental knowledge developed in the course of this project should result in greater production and environmental benefit, with reduced nutrient losses, now and in the future.

Last Modified: 8/27/2014
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