Submitted to: Nebraska Cattleman Magazine
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 30, 2011
Publication Date: August 16, 2011
Citation: Pote, D.H. 2011. Subsurface application of dry solid manure. Nebraska Cattleman Magazine. Volume 1.
Interpretive Summary: Animal manure is an excellent source of crop nutrients; but spreading manure on the soil surface causes odor problems and allows valuable nutrients to evaporate or be carried by storm runoff into nearby streams and lakes. To help prevent these problems, a USDA-ARS research team has developed an innovative prototype machine for applying dry solid manure under the soil surface in pastures and other no-till systems. When compared to surface application of manure, the prototype subsurface applicator can prevent odor problems, ammonia nitrogen loss to the atmosphere, and most nutrient losses in storm runoff. The work is of interest to scientists, extension personnel, farmers, and the general public because this machine can help make subsurface application technology into a practical management option, potentially leading to more efficient nutrient use and better environmental quality on millions of acres.
Animal manure provides a rich source of crop nutrients, but applying manure on the soil surface can result in significant nutrient losses that cost producers substantial income while degrading air and water quality. Incorporating manure into the soil is a successful technique for decreasing nutrient losses from tilled systems, but has not been possible in pasture systems. To provide a subsurface option for ranchers and no-till farmers who want to decrease nutrient losses from manure applications, a research team from USDA-ARS has now developed the Subsurfer, a tractor-drawn prototype that can transport five tons of dry solid manure and apply it in shallow (3-inch deep) subsurface bands. When compared to surface application of manure, the Subsurfer technology has been shown to prevent odor problems, ammonia nitrogen loss to the atmosphere, and more than 90% of manure nutrient loss in storm runoff, while potentially increasing crop yield and quality.