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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Efficient Management and Use of Animal Manure

Location: Food Animal Environmental Systems Research Unit

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Objective: The objective of this cooperative research project is to conduct cost effective and problem solving research that will evaluate animal waste management practices and treatment strategies that protect water quality, reduce atmospheric emissions, and investigate power plant byproducts as soil amendments. Objective 1: Evaluate the impact of soil chemical amendments, tillage, and manure/litter application to tall fescue grass and corn on soil nutrient content and pathogen survival.

Objective 2: Evaluate the impact of soil chemical amendment and vegetative filter strip treatment system on nutrients, microbial pathogens, and veterinary pharmaceuticals transport from beef cattle backgrounding feedlots on karst environment.

Objective: 3: Determine the suitability of FGD gypsum as a byproduct of coal-fired power plants as a soil amendment. Removing phosphorus and endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) from animal manure using coal combustion byproducts for better handling and land application.

Objective 4: Screening plants for increased phosphorus accumulation and determine related gene expression. Transforming alfalfa to a phosphorus hyper-accumulating plant that could be used in phytoremediation of phosphorus overload from long-term chicken waste applications. Use of manure as a nutrient source for growing algae.

Objective 5: Determine if nutrient loading from agricultural watersheds in karst terrain is a function of physical watershed characteristics.

Objective 6: Develop new sensitive, accurate, and precise analytical methods for the quantification of malodorous compounds and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions forced by meteorological conditions.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Projects in agronomic systems, soil science, emissions, microbiology, cattle evaluation facility, alternative uses of manures, coal combustion byproduct soil amendments, and biotechnology will be conducted using scientific expertise capabilities, field experimental plots, and specialized equipment and other facilities and resources available at Western Kentucky University in conjunction with the specialized equipment and expertise of ARS scientists in the Animal Waste Management Research Unit in Bowling Green and their cooperators for the purpose of industry application and improved economic value within agriculture. Researchers from Western Kentucky University may on occasion work in the ARS laboratories in order to access the specialized, state-of-the-art equipment of ARS. Emphasis is also placed on graduate level training at Western Kentucky University. For details refer to the approved “Project Plan”.


3.Progress Report:

Soil samples have been analyzed for nutrient microbial pathogens content for the last two years. New samples taken this spring are still being processed. Data are analyzed for the first two years. There have been 3 scientific presentations made at meetings on this research over the past year. Nutrient content and pharmaceutical concentrations have been done for the last two years. Global Positioning System (GPS) monitoring of the location has occurred throughout and maps and presentations have been made with this information. Transgenic plants regenerated and were screened for the presence of Purple acid phosphatase (PAP) gene using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology. Analysis is being planned to confirm the integration of PAP gene in plant genome. Attempts are also underway to overexpress this gene in alfalfa. Also, in order to study cross-talk between essential elements during accumulation of phosphorus (P) in plants, Western Kentucky University (WKU) scientists have studied the effect of Zinc (Zn) and its influence on other essential nutrients especially P. Results are interesting in terms of mineral nutrition Zn concentration in cells related to contents of P, potassium (K), and sulfur (S); Zn plays role in inorganic phosphorus (Pi) acquisition and mobilization in plants and phytoremediation. Green House Gas (GHG) emissions data have been collected from the field for selected time periods to develop a model. A paper has been accepted for publication and currently in press. The results will eventually help to develop ‘Best Management Practices’ that will show type of meteorological conditions farmers would like to avoid to minimize emissions. About 50% of Kentucky is underlain by limestone bedrock in which well-developed karst landscapes have formed. These are regions where the bedrock has been highly dissolved; forming characteristic features such as caves, sinkholes and underground rivers which are common. WKU scientists continued to make significant progress toward achieving our planned experiments for determining the fate of agricultural contaminants in karst groundwater at the local cave field site. Data that we have collected are leading to a more complete understanding of the hydrological, geological, geochemical, and biological processes that impact the fate and transport of animal waste-related nutrients and bacteria introduced by real world row crop farming above the cave, as well as specific tracing experiments we have implemented. Over the course of the year, as the neighboring farms apply the herbicide atrazine during crop rotations, the study of its transport as a tracer has helped us understand the hydrology of the site. This site is characteristic of conditions over about 2.5 million acres of the geologically homogeneous Pennyroyal Plateau region. Field plots amended with “mined gypsum” and “flue gas desulfurized (FGD) gypsum” (26 tons/acre) were planted with corn. The soil was sampled from surface to 5 inches deep to measure mercury (Hg) concentration. Monthly results from those tests showed that Hg content versus depth was near homogenous for the mined gypsum and control plots; however, FGD gypsum showed 20 parts per billion (ppb) increase over the control for the top 2 inches of soil. Plots were monitored for over 10 months with Hg showing minimal migration (possibly ¼ to ½ inch per year downward into the soil). Corn plant samples from FGD gypsum plots did not appear to demonstrate increased Hg uptake content when compared with control and mined gypsum plots. Ammonia production for a poultry house is on the order of 5 tons per year, which in most cases is currently being vented into the atmosphere. Effective capture and conversion will minimize emissions and lower agriculture usage of conventional fertilizer. A conceptual layout for capture has been conceived, with initial designs currently in progress.


Last Modified: 8/22/2014
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