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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: National Soil Dynamics Laboratory

2010 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 the growing environmental concern regarding organic waste disposal, field and laboratory studies were established to develop improved methods to utilize waste products for soil and crop benefits while minimizing environmental degradation. We have initiated a series of field studies in Alabama (including the Sand Mountain region) to evaluate the impact of fertilizer and poultry litter application methods as affected by tillage systems on crop production and greenhouse trace gas losses to the atmosphere. A four-trench litter applicator implement was designed, constructed, and used for applying poultry litter in field experiments. This unique equipment was patented in 2010. Studies of nitrogen mineralization of composted dairy manure as effected by soil properties and landscape position as well as studies on the long-term impact of tillage and poultry litter application on soil carbon and nitrogen fertility were conducted. Studies on the use of flue gas desulfurization gypsum as a soil amendment to reduce phosphorus losses in rainfall runoff were conducted. Studies to evaluate a new waste processing byproduct of municipal waste as a soil amendment were conducted.

1. 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 produce 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, to evaluate the non-composted Fluff as a soil amendment for improving soil quality, plant growth, and revegetation success on training lands. The highest Fluff rate improved native grass establishment. Plant phosphorus (P) accumulation also increased significantly with increasing Fluff application. Because no adverse environmental effects were detected and Fluff improved perennial grass establishment, land application should be considered to be a viable and beneficial alternative to current waste management practices.

2. Determined Benefits of Shallow Subsurface Band Application of Poultry Litter. Poultry litter is typically land-applied by broadcast surface application, but this method has a high potential for undesirable transport of litter nutrients off the field into streams, rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. An experimental four-trench litter applicator field implement that applies litter in shallow subsurface bands in soil was used in five field experiments. When the poultry litter is applied in subsurface bands, compared to traditional broadcast surface application, results show that phosphorus and nitrogen nutrients in water running off field plots are reduced by 80 to 95%. 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.

3. Study of Manure Nitrogen (N) Mineralization. Interest in manure management and its effects on nitrogen availability (nitrogen mineralization) has increased in recent years. Understanding N mineralization rates of manure under different environmental conditions could be important in managing N more efficiently. A study was conducted to evaluate the impacts that different soil-types (resulting from differences in landscape position) and season of the year have on nitrogen mineralization. In this study, three soil series from different landscape positions were fertilized with manure and compared using in situ soil cores. Soils that received manure addition were more effective in generating available N than soils without added manure. This was most evident during the summer months, suggesting that seasonal timing of application with different soil temperature will impact manure nitrogen mineralization. During the winter the soil with the greatest percentage of sand (located in a low-lying areas) had the greatest N mineralization compared to the other soils. During the summer months, soil with the greatest water holding capacity mineralized the most N. This study indicates that in order to maximize the use of nitrogen derived from manure, soil temperature resulting from season of the year and soil variability as influenced by landscape postion need to be considered when appling manure to agricultural fields.

4. Study of Long-Term Effect on Soil Quality Parameters After 10 years of Altered Treatment. 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 large amounts of poultry litter, which could potentially benefit infertile soils by supplying them with organic matter. A few studies have investigated manure application to crop land in the Southeast, typically in 2-year studies, which have resulted in conflicting amounts of soil organic matter retained in the soil. A laboratory study was conducted to evaluate the long-term effects of conservation 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 producers in the Southeast 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.

5.Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
Scientists have participated in activities and ongoing research with Alabama A&M University. Collaboration included cosponsoring grant proposals to support research projects. These efforts included full proposal submission to the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program - Sustainable Bioenergy grant program entitled “Field Evaluation of a New Instrument for Non-Invasive Carbon Determination in Soil for Monitoring Carbon Sequestration and Sustainable Bio-energy Production” and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program - Climate Change grant program entitled “Long-Term Effects of Conservation Tillage and Poultry Litter Application on Carbon Dioxide, Methane and Nitrous Oxide Emissions”.

Review Publications
Watts, D.B., Torbert III, H.A., Prior, S.A. 2010. Soil property and landscape position effects on seasonal nitrogen mineralization of composted dairy manure. Soil Science. 175(1):27-35.

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.

Busby, R.R., Gebhart, D.L., Torbert III, H.A., Dawson, J.O., Bollero, G.A., Potter, K.N., Curtain, D.R. 2010. Effects of a New Processing Byproduct on Soil and Vegetation at Fort Campbell, TN. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis. 41:250-266.

Watts, D.B., Torbert III, H.A., Prior, S.A., Huluka, G. 2010. Long-Term Tillage and Poultry Litter Impacts Soil Carbon and Nitrogen Mineralization and Fertility. Soil Science Society of America Journal. 74:1239-1247.

Potter, K.N., Unger, P.W., Torbert III, H.A. 2009. Management effects on soil organic carbon in Texas soils. In: Lal, R., Follett, R.F., editors. Soil Carbon Sequestration and the Greenhouse Effect. 2nd edition. Soil Science Society of America Special Publication 57. p. 115-122.

Way, T.R. 2009. Single Wheel Testers, Single Track Testers, and Instrumented Tractors. In: Upadhyaya, S.K., Chancellor, W.J., Perumpral, J.V., Wulfsohn, D. and Way, T.R., editors. Advances in Soil Dynamics. 3(2):253-271.

Wulfsohn, D., Way, T.R. 2009. Factors that Influence Tractive Performance of Wheels, Tracks, and Vehicles. In: Upadhyaya, S.K., Chancellor, W.J., Perumpral, J.V., Wulfsohn, D. and Way, T.R., editors. Advances in Soil Dynamics. 3(2):209-252.

Pote, D.H., Way, T.R., Sistani, K.R., Moore Jr, P.A. 2009. Water-quality effects of a mechanized subsurface-banding technique for applying poultry litter to perennial grassland. Journal of Environmental Management. 90(11):3534-3539.

Way, T.R. 2009. Three single wheel machines for traction and soil compaction research. CIGR EJournal. Manuscript 1534. XI:1-24.

Tekeste, M.Z., Tollner, E.W., Raper, R.L., Way, T.R., Johnson, C.E. 2009. Non-Linear Finite Element Analysis of Cone Penetration in Layered Sandy Loam Soil-Considering Precompression Stress State. Terramechanics Journal. 46(5):229-239.

Last Modified: 4/17/2014
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