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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Agroecosystem Management Research

2010 Annual Report

1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
1. Define the critical environmental and biological factors such as temperature, moisture content, organic matter content/composition, and nutrient content affecting emissions of odor compounds, greenhouse gases, and ammonia from beef cattle feedlot surfaces. 2. Measure the effects of critical environmental and biological factors identified in Objective 1 on nutrient transport of N, P, and indicator microorganisms from beef cattle feedlot surfaces. 3. Determine the potential for emissions of pathogenic, fecal indicator microorganisms, nutrient and odor compounds in wastewater, soil and air during and after spray wastewater application. 4. Evaluate alternative treatment technologies such as constructed wetlands, cattle feedlot runoff systems, and water treatment technologies to reduce or eliminate the occurrence, transmission, or persistence of manure-borne pathogens and excessive nutrients (N and P) and other constituents (biological oxygen demand, pH, and total suspended solids).

1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Experiments will be conducted in the field and in the laboratory to evaluate gas emissions, nutrient transport, and microbial transport and fate associated with specific types of confined animal feeding operations and wastewater treatment processes. Specific areas within beef cattle feedlot pens will be identified that disproportionately emit gases (odor compounds, ammonia, and greenhouse gases) or have a large potential for nutrient runoff through the use of flux chambers and gas chromatography and by the use of artificial rainfall simulators. Flux chambers, mass losses from soil, and bioaerosol sampling will be used to determine the loss of nutrients, odor compounds, and the potential to disseminate manure-borne microorganisms in multi-year studies at field sites where swine wastewater is center pivot applied to agricultural fields. Standard microbiological techniques will be used to determine the prevalence of manure-borne microorganisms after alternative treatments have been used to treat wastewater.

3.Progress Report
This is the final report for the project 5440-12000-060-00D. The new five-year project completed peer review in FY2010 and will be implemented early in FY2011. In the final year of this project, multiple field and laboratory studies were conducted to meet existing project milestones and address priority problem areas within the nutrient, emission, and pathogens components of the NP206 Manure and Byproducts Utilization action plan. Substantial progress was made addressing research objectives over the 4 years of this project.

In objective #1, an inexpensive field chamber was developed to measure ammonia, greenhouse gas, and odor emissions. In multiple cattle feedlot field studies we determined that differences in cattle diet affected odor emissions. Additionally, specific areas within the feedlot pen are emission hot spots. Laboratory studies of swine manures applied to soils also found that odor compound emissions decreased over time, but certain classes of odor compounds decreased at different rates with season being an important factor.

In objective #2, multiple field studies compared nutrient and pathogen run off from cattle feedlots when cattle were fed dry rolled corn or distiller’s byproduct ration. Additional field studies of those same cattle feedlot manures to cropland were also conducted. This research indicates that although the distiller’s manure is enriched in nutrients, enhanced nutrient runoff from feedlot pens and crop land is not a concern.

In objective #3, field and laboratory studies of swine manure wastewater application by center pivot determined that odor compounds decreased rapidly over several days after application, depending upon the type of odor compound. In field experiments, ammonia losses occurred during spray application and post application from the soil over a 24 hour period. Many manure microbes (coliforms, E. coli, Enterococci, and Clostridium spores) were detected in lagoon wastewater samples, but only coliforms were detectible in the bioaerosol spray downwind of the pivot. In soils, Campylobacter were elevated immediately after wastewater application but were reduced to background levels within 1 week. Total coliforms, Clostridium spores, and Enterococci did not increase during the application and were reduced or unchanged after a week, whereas E. coli increased. Wind tunnel experiments are providing crucial information in bioaerosol transport model development.

In objective #4, the efficacy of several advanced treatment technologies to reduce enteric pathogens from treated wastewater was determined through bench and pilot scale studies. This research has shown adequate (at least 99.99%) reduction in enteric viruses by disinfectants such as ozone and medium pressure ultra violet light. However, preliminary results show the persistence of adenoviruses in almost all treated samples. Investigation of protozoa pathogen transport and fate in one vegetative treatment system showed that these organisms were only occasionally detected in the vegetative treatment area and therefore not likely to contaminate hay removed from the area.

1. Use of nutrient-rich manure from cattle fed distiller’s by-products for crop production does not adversely impact nutrient runoff. Feedlots may increase profitability by including distiller’s grains in feedlot finishing diets. However the nutrient content of by-products are concentrated about three-fold during the distillation process. ARS scientists in Lincoln, NE compared the runoff water quality effects resulting from the application of manure derived from corn and distillers grain diets and the effects of 1, 2, and 4-year phosphorus based manure application rates. No significant difference in the transport of phosphorus in runoff was found between the corn and distillers grain treatments. However, phosphorus transport in runoff was significantly affected by manure application rate. This research indicates that the environmental effects of multiple year manure application should be considered when developing nutrient management plans.

2. Manure nutrient runoff is reduced by the placement of stiff-stemmed grass hedges on the contour along a hill slope. ARS scientists in Lincoln, NE measured the effectiveness of narrow grass hedges in reducing runoff nutrient transport from sites on which beef cattle manure was applied to meet 0, 1, 2 or 4-year corn phosphorus requirements. Manure application rate significantly affected the transport of phosphorus in runoff on the treatments without a grass hedge. However, phosphorus transport on the treatments where manure was applied to plots containing a grass hedge was similar to the treatments that did not receive manure. This research indicates that stiff-stemmed grass hedges reduce the transport of nutrients in runoff occurring soon after manure application, and an adoption of grass hedges would decrease phosphorous runoff into streams and enhance water quality.

Review Publications
Gilley, J.E., Berry, E.D., Eigenberg, R.A., Marx, D.B., Woodbury, B.L. 2009. Nutrient and Bacterial Transport in Runoff from Soil and Pond Ash Amended Feedlot Surfaces. Transactions of the ASABE. 52(6):2077-2085.

Woodbury, B.L., Lesch, S.M., Eigenberg, R.A., Miller, D.N., Spiehs, M.J. 2009. Electromagnetic Induction Sensor Data to Identify Areas of Manure Accumulation on a Feedlot Surface. Soil Science Society of America Journal. 73(6):2068-2077.

Durso, L., Maguire, H., Cronquist, A., Bono, J.L. 2010. Outbreak Investigation: STEC O157. Medical Laboratory Observer [serial online]. Available:

Durso, L.M., Harhay, G.P., Smith, T.P.L., Bono, J.L., Desantis, T.Z., Harhay, D.M., Andersen, G.L., Keen, J.E., Laegreid, W.W., Clawson, M.L. 2010. Animal-to-Animal Variation in Fecal Microbial Diversity among Beef Cattle. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 76(14):4858-4862.

Keen, J.E., Laegreid, W.W., Chitko Mckown, C.G., Durso, L.M., Bono, J.L. 2010. Distribution of Shiga-Toxigenic Escherichia coli O157 in the Gastrointestinal Tract of Naturally O157-Shedding Cattle at Necropsy. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 76(15):5278-5281.

Gilley, J.E., Berry, E.D., Eigenberg, R.A., Marx, D.B., Woodbury, B.L. 2010. Nutrient Transport in Runoff from Feedlots as Affected by Wet Distiller's Grain Diet. Transactions of the ASABE. 53(2):545-552.

Last Modified: 4/18/2014
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