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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: MANAGEMENT OF NUTRIENTS FROM BEEF FEEDLOTS TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT
2006 Annual Report


1.What major problem or issue is being resolved and how are you resolving it (summarize project aims and objectives)? How serious is the problem? Why does it matter?
Manure management is a major production cost and can degrade the environment if managed improperly. We want to improve and evaluate alternative feedlot runoff control systems using vegetative treatment areas to reduce costs and simplify management of precipitation runoff. Traditional runoff control systems can be expensive to install and manage, as well as a potential source of odors and groundwater contamination. The distribution of nutrients contained in livestock manures across a feedlot surface or applied to cropland is not uniform due to the nature of the material. Therefore, sampling methods to determine the presence and concentration of nutrients is critical. We have applied electromagnetic induction techniques to sense electrical conductivity, and have mapped entire fields to locate areas of high or low electrical conductivity. These areas were subsequently associated with nutrient content of the soil. The technique has now been extended to evaluate the dynamics of nitrogen mineralization and utilization throughout the growing season on cropland. The maps are also useful in identifying areas of manure accumulation and potential sources of odor. Odor generation measures are being made with a newly developed emissions flux sampler. The combination of contributing area and generation rate should provide critical data to understand the spatial distribution across feedlot pens. There is a need to evaluate the occurrence, transmission, and persistence of zoonotic pathogens and fecal indicators in runoff from beef cattle feedlots applied to grass, a study we have initiated with a collaborator.


2.List by year the currently approved milestones (indicators of research progress)
Year 1: (FY 2005) Continue evaluation of the original alternative runoff control facility. Design a second alternative runoff control facility and submit to Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality for approval. Develop methodology for surveying feedlot surfaces. Design and initiate an experiment to investigate the impact of cover crop kill date on corn silage production. Complete 12-yr study on manure/compost application to corn silage production area, and design soil remediation study to reduce surface phosphorus concentration. Conduct initial survey of demonstration-site vegetative treatment systems using mapping techniques. Develop ammonia flux sampler and test it for efficiency. Develop a sampling protocol for measurement of zoonotic pathogens in a vegetative treatment area.

Year 2: (FY 2006) Continue evaluation of the original alternative runoff control facility. Install and instrument the second alternative control facility. Compare and report the performance of the alternative and traditional runoff control facilities to model predictions. Complete multiple surveys of feedlot surfaces to study the spatial distribution of nutrient accumulation on the surface and develop interim report. Conduct bi-weekly sampling of cover crop kill date site. Establish alfalfa crop to provide phosphorus uptake and sample. Survey vegetative treatment areas using mapping techniques. Collect and analyze data on feedlot surface flux and electromagnetic induction (EMI) soil conductivity maps. Collect and analyze data on zoonotic pathogen activity in a vegetative treatment area.

Year 3: (FY 2007) Continue evaluation of the original alternative runoff control facility. Evaluate the performance of the second alternative runoff control facility. Complete multiple surveys of feedlot surfaces to study spatial distribution of nutrients. Conduct bi-weekly sampling of cover crop kill date site, and compare to water quality model with interim report. Survey alfalfa phosphorus uptake site, sample crop and soils, and prepare interim report. Survey vegetative treatment areas using mapping techniques, and prepare initial report. Collect and analyze data on feedlot surface flux and EMI maps, and develop an interim report. Collect and analyze data on zoonotic pathogen activity in a vegetative treatment area.

Year 4: (FY 2008) Continue evaluation of the original alternative runoff control facility and the second facility. Complete report of the performance of both facilities and compare to model predictions. Complete multiple surveys of feedlot surfaces to study spatial distribution of nutrients on feedlot surfaces. Conduct bi-weekly sampling of cover crop kill date site. Survey alfalfa phosphorus uptake site, sample crop and soils. Collect and analyze data on soil flux and EMI maps. Test ammonia flux sampler on cooperator sites. Collect and analyze data on feedlot surface flux and EMI maps. Collect and analyze data on zoonotic pathogen activity. Determine pathogen survival characteristics of the vegetative treatment area.

Year 5: (FY 2009) Prepare final report of alternative runoff control facility operation and performance of model predictions. Report dynamics of microbial activity on the feedlot surface. Conduct bi-weekly sampling of cover crop kill date site and prepare final report. Survey alfalfa phosphorus uptake site, sample crop and soils, and prepare final report. Survey vegetative treatment areas using mapping techniques and prepare final report. Test ammonia flux sampler on cooperator sites. Report findings of the pathogen survival characteristics of the vegetative treatment area.


4a.List the single most significant research accomplishment during FY 2006.
Soil Conductivity as a Measure of Soil and Crop Status: Sustainable agriculture requires innovative and practical tools to optimize farm profits, conserve soil nutrients, and minimize environmental contamination. Electromagnetic induction measurements of apparent soil conductivity has proven to be one such tool. The most significant outcome of this year was a report detailing use of electromagnetic induction (EMI) soil conductivity to track available N levels during four growing seasons in relation to manure or compost application and use of a green winter cover crop. A series of soil conductivity maps of a research cornfield were generated using a global positioning system (GPS) and EMI methods, with simultaneous soil samples. The sequential measurements of soil conductivity effectively identified the dynamic changes in available soil N, as affected by animal manure and commercial anhydrous ammonia fertilizer treatments during the corn growing season. The sequential measurements also clearly identified the effectiveness of cover crops in minimizing levels of available soil N before and after the corn-growing season, when soluble N is most subject to loss. This 4-yr study supports the initial findings of a 1999 study that soil conductivity appears to be a reliable indicator of soluble N gains and losses in the soil under study, and may serve as a measure of available N sufficiency for corn early in the growing season, as well as an indicator of NO3–N surplus after harvest, when soluble N is prone to loss from leaching and/or runoff.


4b.List other significant research accomplishment(s), if any.
None


4c.List significant activities that support special target populations.
None.


4d.Progress report.
A total of 12 runoff control systems were incorporated in the USMARC NPDES permit application approved for construction. Five of the systems were traditional capture and hold systems and seven were Alternative Control Technology (ACT) systems with vegetative treatment areas (VTA). There are three types of ACT designs to coincide with the Project Plan objective to evaluate ACT systems, as well as VTAs. Basin designs included three basins to drain in 72 hr; two basins designed to drain in 2 hr, and two systems designed with a settling bench (no basin) to allow a flat area to collect solids as liquid is drained to the VTA. Construction of all sites is expected to be completed by October, 2006 and grass established on all VTAs by that time. Examination of the occurrence, transmission, and persistence of zoonotic pathogens and fecal indicators in the alternative runoff control-vegetative treatment area system reveals that both Escherichia coli O157 and Campylobacter spp. are shed by cattle housed in the pens, and have been recovered from soils, basin sludge, and basin water. Basin discharge can introduce E. coli O157, Campylobacter spp., and generic E. coli into the VTA. Without additional inputs from the basin, isolation frequencies of E. coli O157 and Campylobacter spp. from VTA soils decrease over time. Similarly, levels of generic E. coli in soil initially decrease rapidly, but lower residual populations may persist for long periods. Isolation of generic E. coli from fresh-cut hay from regions of the VTA that received basin discharge (12/30 vs. 1/30 control samples) indicates some contamination risk, however no pathogens were recovered from hay following baling. Sample collection in the runoff system has been completed; pathogen isolate characterization by PCR and pulsed field gel electrophoresis is ongoing

Collaborations were initiated with a geostatistician from ARS-Soil Salinity Lab at Riverside, California to improve sampling protocols for describing areas within feedlot pens, as well as ACT liquid waste systems. The protocol uses high-density, low-cost EMI data, and multiple linear regression methods with soil sample data, to describe manure accumulation geospatially. The EMI soil conductivity data was found to be highly correlated with volatile solids on feedlot pens surfaces. This volatile solids accumulation comprised approximately 30% of the pen surface area. Once these areas have been identified, producers can target their management efforts on these areas. The ACT liquid runoff sites demonstrated high correlations with between EMI soil conductivity values and the chloride ion in the soil; chloride in midwestern soils is a good indicator of a manure source.

Three different liner materials were placed in a settling basin to evaluate their ability to limit leaching losses and support equipment during cleaning. Leaching losses were measured using TDR probes placed beneath each treatment. Preliminary results indicate the pond ash supported equipment traffic better than the other treatments and reduced leaching. Geotextile liners are expensive and are not well suited for equipment traffic during solids removal. Packed clay liners work well for limiting contaminant leaching, but generally do not support cleaning equipment. Pond ash is a by-product from particulate scrubbing of coal-fire electrical generation. It is readily available in most rural areas throughout the mid-west and is relatively inexpensive when compared to other potential lining materials.

A cost-effective flux chamber was designed and tested that can be used for laboratory and field experiments. The chamber utilized a hemispherical stainless steel vessel, with an internal gas mixing fan. A port was added to accommodate both greenhouse gas air stream sampling and SPME samplers for collection of volatile organic compounds (VOC). The head-space was tested and found to behave as a continuous stirred reactor. As a result, concentrations measured at the sampling port are representative of concentrations anywhere in the head-space. The apparatus was found to be stable over a wide range of flow rates, and linear with respect to surface area of manure. Because these chambers are much less expensive to build than traditional wind-tunnel type systems, many more sites within a pen can be analyzed simultaneously. This reduces the temperature effect due to time of day. They appear well suited for measuring relative differences.

Multiple off-site surveys of VTAs were done during the past year. Four sites were surveyed in Iowa and another four are planned to be surveyed in Nebraska. Survey and soil sampling protocols have been developed and refined based on research experience and collaborations with statisticians. Information derived from these surveys was used to establish baseline performance data for the VTAs. Periodic monitoring is planned to establish sustainability and performance parameters. This information can be used by design engineers to design runoff control systems for producers in compliance with CAFO regulations.

A 10-yr research site having a cover crop treatment has yielded valuable data that led to development of a second research site. The second site is in the second year of a study that evaluates the effects of cover crop kill date on the nutrient availability to the primary corn silage crop. This ongoing work is expected to yield valuable information related to optimal timing of cover crop termination. An anticipated by-product of this research is validation data to aid development of a cover crop component to the Root Zone Water Quality Model (RZWQM).


5.Describe the major accomplishments to date and their predicted or actual impact.
The research reported is conducted under National Program 206, "Manure and Byproduct Utilization." One year into this project, two major accomplishments can be reported.

The first accomplishment relates to Nutrient Management Problem Area 3 "Management tasks for indexing and evaluating nutrient fate and transport," and is a method that was developed to track changes in soil available N levels over a growing season. The method was based on a series of soil conductivity maps of a research cornfield that were generated using GPS and EMI methods, with simultaneous soil samples. That study concludes that soil conductivity appears to be a reliable indicator of soluble N gains and losses in the soil under study. Soil conductivity may serve as a measure of available N sufficiency for corn early in the growing season, as well as an indicator of NO3–N surplus after harvest when soluble N is prone to loss from leaching and/or runoff. These findings are of value to researchers studying crop nutrient dynamics, to consultants and producers optimizing cover crop usage, and as a data-base to enhance existing crop/nutrient models such as the root-zone water quality model (RZWQM). The second major accomplishment directly contributes to Emissions Problem Area 3 "Control technologies and strategies research," and was the design of an inexpensive flux chamber to measure gaseous emissions from cattle manure. The chamber’s portable design required little operator input to quickly obtain multiple samples to measure relative emissions of greenhouse gases, ammonia (NH3), and VOC from multiple sites in cattle feedlot pens. Therefore, it is being used in conjunction with EMI studies for evaluating the spatial variability of gas emissions from feedlot surfaces. In addition, the chamber has been used in laboratory studies for developing a solid-phase microextraction method for analysis of feces and manure volatiles. The chamber system is being used by other scientists and engineers for evaluating gas emissions from feedlot pens, compost and manure stock piles.


6.What science and/or technologies have been transferred and to whom? When is the science and/or technology likely to become available to the end-user (industry, farmer, other scientists)? What are the constraints, if known, to the adoption and durability of the technology products?
Presented fundamentals of waste management in a CEV multimedia production of an educational film for college recruitment purposes.

Asked to give presentation on VTAs by Utah State University extension specialist, and to a DEQ environmental scientist from Utah.

Invited to present waste management issues to fourteen graduate students from Oklahoma State University.

Environmental Management Research Unit scientists have been contacted to present information on feedlot runoff control-vegetative treatment system and livestock waste management to university professors, extension educators, representatives from beef and pork commodity groups, and representatives of federal and state natural resource and environmental regulatory agencies. Environmental Management Research Unit scientists are cooperating with Iowa Cattlemen and Iowa State University to evaluate treatment performance of multiple demonstration ATC sites across Iowa using EMI technology. Also completed initial surveys of VTAs for feedlots using alternative runoff control facilities for beef cattle feedlots at cooperator sites in Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas.


Review Publications
Ferguson, R.B., Nienaber, J.A., Eigenberg, R.A., Woodbury, B.L. 2005. Long-term effects of sustained beef feedlot manure application on soil nutrients, corn silage yield and nutrient uptake. Journal of Environmental Quality 34:1672-1681.

Nienaber, J.A., Eigenberg, R.A., Woodbury, B.L. 2006. System design for NMP and NPDES permit application for the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center. American Society of Agri Engineers Special Meetings and Conferences Papers.Paper No. 064055.

Eigenberg, R.A., Woodbury, B.L., Nienaber, J.A. 2006. Use of MLR to estimate nutrient distribution at waste management sites--preliminary report. American Society of Agri Engineers Special Meetings and Conferences Papers. Paper No. 064056.

Woodbury, B.L., Eigenberg, R.A., Nienaber, J.A. 2006. Vegetative treatment area geospatial nutrient distribution after eight years of operation. American Society of Agri Engineers Special Meetings and Conferences Papers. Paper No. 064058.

Honeycutt, C.W., Griffin, T.S., Wienhold, B.J., Eghball, B., Albrecht, S.L., Powell, J.M., Woodbury, B.L., Sistani, K.R., Hubbard, R.K., Torbert III, H.A., Eigenberg, R.A., Wright, R.J., Jawson, M.D., He, Z. 2005. Protocols for nationally coordinated laboratory and field research on manure nitrogen mineralization. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis. 36: 2807-2822.

Woodbury, B.L., Miller, D.N., Eigenberg, R.A., Nienaber, J.A. 2006. An inexpensive laboratory and field chamber for manure volatile gas analysis. Transactions of the ASABE 49(3):767-772.

Eigenberg, R.A., Woodbury, B.L., Nienaber, J.A. 2005. Electromagnetic induction soil conductivity measurements to locate nutrient buildup on feedlot surfaces. Meeting Abstract.2005 International Annual Meetings American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, 218, #2.

Woodbury, B.L., Eigenberg, R.A., Nienaber, J.A. 2005. Evaluating the spatial and temporal variability of ammonia emissions from feedlot surfaces using electromagnetic induction. Meeting Abstract. 2005 International Annual Meetings American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, 119, #5.

Last Modified: 8/30/2014
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