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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Using Agricultural and Industrial Byproducts to Improve Crop Production Systems and Environment Quality

Location: National Soil Dynamics Laboratory

Title: Water quality benefits of subsurface-banded poultry litter

Authors
item Sen, Sumit -
item Way, Thomas
item Srivastava, Puneet -
item Lamba, Jasmeet -
item Stanford, Kent -

Submitted to: Popular Publication
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: September 22, 2010
Publication Date: September 22, 2010
Citation: Sen, S., Way, T.R., Srivastava, P., Lamba, J., Stanford, K.M. 2010. Water quality benefits of subsurface-banded poultry litter. Extension Timely Information Sheet. Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn, Alabama. p. 1-6..

Interpretive Summary: Broiler chicken litter, which is a mixture of chicken manure and a bedding material, is commonly used as a fertilizer on pastures and cropland in major broiler-producing states. Poultry litter is typically land-applied by broadcasting the litter over the soil surface. Rain falling on soil to which poultry litter has been applied, may carry phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) nutrients from the soil into streams, lakes, and other water bodies. Phosphorus from fields fertilized with broiler litter contributes to eutrophication and growth of toxic algae in surface waters. A prototype implement for applying poultry litter in shallow trenches and covering the litter with soil has been developed. An experiment was conducted to determine amounts of nutrients transported in surface runoff water for the conventional method of surface broadcast application of litter and for this new method of subsurface-band application of litter. The experiment was conducted on tall fescue pasture plots using rainfall simulation on a sandy loam soil in northeastern Alabama. Broiler litter was applied at the rate of 5.0 Mg/ha and surface runoff was produced for one hour using simulated rainfall at a moderately high intensity rainfall rate of 70 mm/h. Less than 10% of the rainfall was found to contribute to surface runoff and the rest infiltrated. Concentrations of total P (TP) and ortho-P (PO4-P) in runoff water were significantly greater for surface-applied litter plots than for subsurface-banded litter. The concentration of TP in runoff was reduced by 83% and the concentration of PO4-P was reduced by 88% for subsurface-banded litter, compared to surface-applied litter. These results show that subsurface band application of litter can substantially reduce nutrient losses in surface runoff.

Technical Abstract: Broiler chicken production is an important industry in Alabama and several other states. Broiler litter is commonly used as a fertilizer on pastures and cropland. This litter has commonly been land-applied near the broiler houses and this has resulted in long-term repeated application of litter to the same agricultural fields. Phosphorus (P) loss from fields fertilized with broiler litter contributes to eutrophication and growth of toxic algae in surface waters. An experiment was conducted to quantify the transport of P in surface runoff water for surface-applied and subsurface-banded application of broiler litter. The experiment was conducted on tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) pasture plots on a sandy loam soil in northeastern Alabama. For the subsurface-banded plots, the litter was applied in subsurface bands using a prototype implement developed at the USDA-ARS National Soil Dynamics Lab (Auburn, AL). For the surface-applied plots, the litter was applied to plots using the conventional surface broadcast application method. The litter was applied at the rate of 5.0 Mg/ha and surface runoff was produced for one hour using a 70 mm/h simulated rainfall. Results show that less than 10% of the rainfall contributed to surface runoff and the rest infiltrated. Concentrations of total P (TP) and ortho-P (PO4-P) in runoff water were significantly greater for surface-applied litter plots than for subsurface-banded litter. The concentration of TP in runoff was reduced by 83% and the concentration of PO4-P was reduced by 88% for subsurface-banded litter, compared to surface-applied litter. These results show that subsurface band application of litter can substantially reduce nutrient losses in surface runoff.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014