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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
2007 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
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.


1b.Approach (from AD-416)
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.


3.Progress Report
Because of this growing environmental concern regarding organic waste disposal, new field and laboratory studies were established this year to develop improved methods to utilize waste products for soil and crop benefits while minimizing environmental degradation. We have initiated a new series of field studies in the Sand Mountain region of Alabama to evaluate the impact of fertilizer and poultry litter application methods as affected by tillage systems on crop production and trace gas losses to the atmosphere. A four-trench litter applicator implement was designed, constructed, and used for applying poultry litter in five field experiments, one in each of five states.


4.Accomplishments
Non-Composted municipal solid waste processing byproduct improves U.S. Army training land reclamation -- The costs to the U.S. Army for handling, management, and disposal of non-hazardous solid waste are significant and are expected to increase. A new garbage processing technology has been developed that sterilizes and separates garbage and produces a light cellulose pulp called Fluff®. The U.S. Army also has large areas that have been damaged due to extensive army training and often lack sufficient topsoil, organic matter, and nutrients necessary for successful revegetation. A study was conducted at Fort Campbell, KY, and Fort Benning, GA, to evaluate the non-composted Fluff as a soil amendment for improving soil quality, plant growth, and revegetation success on training lands. The addition of Fluff improved available plant nutrients and soil pH levels, reduced soil compaction, and increased soil concentration of Carbon (C) and Nitrogen (N). Because no adverse environmental effects were detected and Fluff improved soil physical and nutrient conditions as well as improving grass establishment, Fluff could be considered a viable and beneficial alternative to current waste management practices. (See publications)

This accomplishment addresses Manure and Byproduct Utilization National Program (NP206), 2.4.1: Management Practices. Long-term study indicates improved soil conditions in the southeast from conservation practices that utilize organic amendments -- Soils in the Southeastern USA, are relatively infertile, highly eroded, and low in organic matter resulting from over 200 years of intensive row crop agriculture that has utilized conventional tillage practices. Also, this region is leading the nation in poultry production (Arkansas, Georgia, and Alabama), generating a large amount of poultry litter, which could potentially benefit infertile soils by supplying them with organic matter. A few studies have investigated manure application to cropland in the Southeast, typically in 2-year studies, which have resulted in conflicting information regarding the amounts of soil organic matter retained in soil. Thus, a laboratory study was established to evaluate long-term effects of less intensive tillage practices (>25 years) in conjunction with poultry litter application (>10 years) to soil in order to evaluate soil fertility improvements and soil organic matter retention. Our results show that farmers in the southeastern region of the U.S. could build up soil organic matter thereby improving soil quality of highly eroded soils with the implementation of conservation practices that utilize organic amendments such as poultry litter. (See publication)

This accomplishment addresses Manure and Byproduct Utilization National Program (NP206), 2.6.1: Conservation Practices - Determine the influence of agronomic practices such as tillage systems, surface residue, and crop rotations on movement of manure nutrients.

Planter aid for heavy residue Conservation Tillage Systems -- The use of conservation tillage systems has many crop production advantages. However, plant residue left on the soil surface makes planting the crop more difficult. One potential problem is that standing residue often gets caught in the moving mechanisms of the planter, causing the planter to become clogged. Working with a local farmer, a device was developed called the “Forward Residue Mover” for use on no-till planters to help prevent standing residue from clogging the planting mechanism. A description of the forward residue mover has been published and has been widely disseminated to interested farmers and consultants. (See publication)

This accomplishment addresses Soil Resource Management National Program (NP 202), 5.1.2: Developing Sustainable Soil Management Systems.

Residue removal for energy production affects the carbon content of no-till soils depending on climate conditions -- Soil organic carbon, generally increases after conversion from tillage to no-till management practices, assuming that the crop residue is left on the soil surface. In Mexico, crop residues are often utilized as animal food, even with no-till management practices. A study was conducted to determine the effect of removing different amounts of corn residue on soil organic carbon content associated with no- till. Leaving corn residue generally increased soil organic carbon content with no-till, but with all residue removed soil organic carbon levels were usually maintained at about the same level as that which occurred with moldboard plowing. With higher mean annual temperatures, leaving residues on the surface was less effective in increasing soil carbon content than with lower mean annual temperatures. Higher rainfall usually increased soil carbon content with larger amounts of residue remaining on the surface. This study indicated that No-till will increase soil carbon content, but climatic conditions should be considered to determine if crop residue in excess of that needed for erosion control would be more effectively utilized for other purposes such as animal feed or energy production. (See publication) This accomplishment addresses Soil Resource Management National Program (NP 202), 5.1.2: Developing Sustainable Soil Management Systems.

Development and use of a four-trench poultry litter applicator implement -- The conventional method of broadcast surface application of poultry litter has a high potential for the undesirable transport of litter nutrients off the field into streams, rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. A four-trench litter applicator implement that applies litter in shallow subsurface bands in soil was designed and constructed. The implement was used for applying poultry litter in five field experiments. Preliminary results show the amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen nutrients in water running off field plots are 80 to 95% less when the poultry litter is applied in subsurface bands, compared to traditional broadcast surface application. Use of the implement by producers and others who apply litter to fields is expected to reduce pollution of streams, rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water considerably.

This accomplishment addresses Manure and Byproduct Utilization National Program (NP 206), the Nutrient Management Component, Problem Area 4. Farming Systems and Practices for Efficient and Balanced Manure Nutrient Management. Development of a method for quantifying odor compounds in wastewater from animal feeding operations -- Wastewater from concentrated animal feeding operations produces offensive odors. An apparatus for quantifying malodorous compounds in animal wastewater was developed and used in a swine waste lagoon. One version of the apparatus had a rotating stir bar to encourage adsorption of wastewater compounds onto the stir bar and a second version had a stationary stir bar. Significantly greater levels of some key malodorous compounds were found on the rotating stir bars, compared to the stationary stir bars. The method is expected to be useful in improving our understanding of malodors in animal wastewater lagoons and in achieving reduced emissions of malodors from lagoons. (See publication)

This accomplishment addresses National Program 206, the Atmospheric Emissions Component, Problem Area 1: Understanding the Biological, Chemical, and Physical Mechanisms Affecting Emissions.


6.Technology Transfer

Number of invention disclosures submitted1
Number of non-peer reviewed presentations and proceedings21
Number of newspaper articles and other presentations for non-science audiences10

Review Publications
Torbert III, H.A., Ingram, J.T., Prior, S.A. 2007. Planter aid for heavy residue consrvation tillage systems. Agronomy Journal. 99:478-480.

Busby, R.R., Torbert III, H.A., Gebhart, D.L. 2006. Carbon and nitrogen mineralization of non-composted and composted municipal solid waste in sandy soils. Soil Biology and Biochemistry. 39:1277-1283.

Torbert III, H.A., Busby, R.R., Gebhart, D.L., Potter, K.N., Curtain, D.R. 2007. Non-composted municipal solid waste processing byproduct effect on soil reclamation. Journal of Plant Nutrition. 30(5):755-772.

Celik, A., Ozturk, I., Way, T.R. 2007. Effects of Various Planters on Emergence and Seed Distribution Uniformity of Sunflower. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 23(1):57-61.

Loughrin, J.H., Way, T.R. An equilibrium sampler for malodors in wastewater. Transactions of the ASABE. Vol. 49(4):1167-1172.

Potter, K.N., Velazquez-Garcia, J., Scopel, E., Torbert III, H.A. 2007. Residue removal and climatic effects on soil carbon content of no-till soils. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 62(2):110-114.

Last Modified: 10/31/2014
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