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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Bowling Green, Kentucky » Food Animal Environmental Systems Research » Research » Research Project #420394

Research Project: Efficient Management and Use of Animal Manure to Protect Human Health and Environmental Quality

Location: Food Animal Environmental Systems Research

2014 Annual Report


1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The overall goal of the research project which is formulated as a real partnership between ARS and Western Kentucky University (WKU) is to conduct cost effective and problem solving research associated with animal waste management. The research will evaluate management practices and treatment strategies that protect water quality, reduce atmospheric emissions, and control pathogens at the animal production facilities, manure storage areas, and field application sites, particularly for the karst topography. This Project Plan is a unique situation in the sense that non-ARS scientists from WKU are included on an in-house project to conduct research under the NP 214. The objectives and related specific sub-objectives for the next 5 years are organized according to the Components (Nutrient, Emission, Pathogen, and Byproduct) of the NP 214, which mostly apply to this project as follows: 1) develop improved best management practices, application technologies, and decision support systems for poultry and livestock manure used in crop production; 2) develop methods to identify and quantify emissions, from poultry, dairy and swine rearing operations and manure applied lands; 3) reduce ammonia, odors, microorganisms and particulate emissions from dairy, swine and poultry operations through the use of treatment systems (e.g. biofilters and scrubbers) and innovative management practices; 4) perform runoff and leaching experiments on a variety of soils amended with dairy, swine, or poultry manures infected with Campylobacter jejuni (C. jejuni), Salmonella sp. or Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) and compare observed transport with that observed for common indicator organisms such as E. coli, enterococci, and Bacteriodes; and 5) use molecular-based methodologies to quantify the occurrence of pathogens and evaluate new methods to inhibit their survival and transport in soil, water, and waste treatment systems.


1b. Approach (from AD-416):
This in-house project was conceived as a cooperative/partnership and comprehensive research program between USDA-ARS Animal Waste Management Research Unit (AWMRU) and Western Kentucky University (WKU). The project is designed to utilize the scientific expertise and facilities of both institutions to conduct problem-solving research related to animal waste management in Kentucky and the southeastern U.S. The research effort will be multi-disciplinary and multifaceted in support of decision making and systems development. Research focuses will be on all four components (Nutrient, Atmospheric Emission, Pathogens, and By-products) of the National Program 214. In lieu of repeatedly stating the equipment used for analysis, please note that the state-of-the-art laboratories and equipments exist at both AWMRU and WKU, which can be accessed by the scientists including land at the WKU research station. Main instruments include: ICP, GC-MS, 2 GCs, Latchet, 2 C/N Analyzers, IC, HPLC, Real-time PCR, etc.


3. Progress Report:
This project plan under several objectives/sub-objectives investigates environmental problems related to the improper use of animal manure and agricultural waste including nutrients, pathogens, greenhouse gases (GHGs), odor-causing volatile organic compounds, dust and sediment associated with animal production facilities and manure application sites. Research also determines best management practices (BMPs) for crop production on land receiving agricultural waste with regard to crop management and soil types particularly in unique “karst topography”. Following are research related activities for the past year: In collaboration with scientists at Western Kentucky University (WKU), ARS researchers in Bowling Green, KY, completed a two year field study to evaluate the survival of naturally occurring pathogens (Campylobacter jejuni, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella enterica), indicator organisms (Escherichia coli (E. coli), enterococci) and antibiotic resistance (AR) genes in applied poultry litter. Data have been presented at three meetings and two manuscripts. An ARS scientist is serving as primary mentor for a female University of Kentucky PhD student on a NIFA funded fellowship project. She is working on research to evaluate the transport of Escherichia coli (E. coli) within karst watersheds in northern and southern Kentucky. These studies are field-based and will be conducted at Lexington and at Crumps Cave in Bowling Green, KY. As part of a two year research grant funded by the Center for Produce Safety, ARS researchers in Bowling Green, KY, are conducting studies to identify properties of indicators that contribute to their occurrence and survival in association with produce in a manner similar to that of pathogens. As part of the study, a graduate student from WKU is working at the ARS site to characterize the adherence and growth of Escherichia coli (E. coli) isolates on lettuce contaminated from manure application or irrigation. Also, ARS researchers in Bowling Green, KY, are working in collaboration with scientists at the University of Iowa and ARS USDA-ARS in Ames, IA, to characterize microbial populations (i.e., methanogens and sulfate reducers) associated with foaming in swine pits. ARS scientists continued collaboration with Natural Resources Conservation Service scientists on a field study evaluating the impact of poultry manure, cover crop, and crop rotation on soil health and corn and soybeans yield. Also, ARS scientists are studying greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions from a new experiment on corn receiving poultry manure. Research funded by the National Pork Board is being conducted to investigate the effects of manure application rate and timing on transport of antibiotic resistant bacteria through soils. This research is investigating whether the transport of antibiotic bacteria and their associated genes through a fine sand and a loamy sand soil is affected by the amount of manure applied and by the time interval between manure application and application of water to the soil. Experiments using a fine sand have been completed and the data are currently being analyzed. Experiments with loamy soil are just beginning. Research is being conducted in collaboration with researchers at North Carolina State University, University of Georgia, Oklahoma State University, University of Tennessee, Texas A&M University, Mississippi State University, and University of Florida to compare and evaluate accuracy of phosphorus (P) indices from 10 states using water quality monitoring data collected in multiple watersheds and predictions of P loss from these watersheds using fate-and-transport models. To date ARS Researchers have conducted model simulations for several sites in Georgia and North Carolina and have evaluated the model predictions with measured values of P loss. ARS Researchers have also calculated the risk of P loss from several sites in Texas and Oklahoma using several P indices and have compared these risk assessments with measured phosphorus loss data. Research is conducted to evaluate the effect of model parameter uncertainties for assessing uncertainties in the Annual Phosphorus (P) Loss Estimator (APLE) model, a commonly used model developed by ARS for evaluating P loss from agricultural fields. Because models are often used to predict P loss from agricultural fields, it is important to evaluate the impact that model parameter uncertainties have on model prediction uncertainties. To date work has focused on estimating uncertainties for model parameters obtained by regression with observed laboratory and field data. These uncertainties will be incorporated into the APLE model to evaluate how these uncertainties affect overall model predictions of P loss. Continuously fed Anaerobic Digesters were developed to study production of biogas from poultry slaughterhouse wastewater. Valve switching systems were developed to control the flow of wastewater and gases. This is part of a dual research project to enhance production of biogas from low strength wastewater and also attempt to enhance the yield of methane from wastewater by stripping it from wastewater by using lower solubility gases. Further research was conducted for improving the isolation and quantification of tetracycline antibiotics from animal wastes. After accepted methods for the isolation of these antibiotics from environmental samples proved inadequate, new methods employing a combination of reverse phase and anionic separation on solid phase sorbents were developed by discussion with commercial vendors and colleagues at Western Kentucky University. Methods for the quantification of hydrogen sulfide from biogas were developed. Calibration curves were developed for hydrogen sulfide and other malodorous and toxic sulfur compounds and dilutions for biogas and wastewater samples were determined to account for low linearity response of flame photometric detector gas chromatograph.


4. Accomplishments
1. Mapping the spatial distribution of manure contaminants around livestock operations. Working in collaboration with ARS scientists in Beltsville, MD, and scientists at Western Kentucky University, ARS scientists in Bowling Green, KY, completed a study to evaluate the spatial distribution of bacteria, nutrients and veterinary pharmaceuticals across a beef cattle backgrounding operation. Intensive management of livestock may increase the potential for release of manure contaminants into soils and water sources. To determine how contaminants are transported through the environment and to pinpoint contaminant “hotspots” researchers used spatial sampling and mapping. Results showed that there was no distinct downhill flow pattern. Instead, contaminants were localized around the barn, suggesting that cleanup efforts focused on the dirt and feeder areas of the barn may go a long way in alleviating risks associated with the manure.

2. Corn yield and nutrient uptake response to swine manure application methods. Farmers are looking for better management practices to enhance production and reduce negative environmental impact from nitrogen (N) fertilizer application since N is one of the most important and costly nutrient inputs for crop production. In this field experiment three pre-plant swine effluent application methods (surface broadcast, direct injection, and application in combination with soil aeration “Aeration method”) were evaluated for no-till corn grain production. Corn grain yield was not significantly different among the three methods of swine effluent applications. However, the injection method produced the greatest corn grain yield. Results demonstrated that the swine effluent and fertilizer application method may not be very important agronomically for corn production in this region, but injecting effluent and N fertilizer may prevent nutrient losses and negative environmental impact when evaluating the impact of N fertilization and liquid manure management.

3. Bacterial transport through biochar-amended soils. ARS researchers located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, investigated the role of soil texture and bacterial surface properties on the transport behavior of two pathogenic bacteria through two biochar-amended soils. Results from the transport studies and auxiliary batch studies indicate that changes in cell retention following biochar amendments were likely due to changes in bacterial attachment in the column. Research also indicated that changes in bacterial hydrophobicity following biochar amendments generally coincided with changes in bacterial retention. The influence of biochar amendment in increasing retention of both bacteria was generally more pronounced in fine sand and indicates that soil texture does indeed affect the transport behavior of bacteria through biochar-amended soils. Incorporation of biochar into soils has been proposed as a means to sequester carbon from the atmosphere and to increase soil retention of agrochemicals. This research demonstrates the potential use of biochar as a means of reducing pathogen leaching into groundwater and provides some insights into the mechanisms involved.

4. Adaptation of a sampling trailer for online, in-situ air quality measurements. ARS researchers at the Food Animal Environmental Systems Research Unit (FAESRU) in Bowling Green, Kentucky, completed adaptation of a trailer to allow for state-of-the-art sampling of gases and particulates in field work. The air sampling trailer contains a suite of instrumentation unique within the agency for detecting and quantifying primary and secondary aerosol emissions in the field. Measurement technology available for field work with the FAESRU air quality trailer include: (1) Three minute measurements of particle concentration from 10–500 nanometers, (2) Twenty second measurements of particle concentration from 0.3 - 20 micrometers, (3) Thirty minute measurements of gas and particulate ammonium, chloride, nitrate, sulfate, amines, and carboxylic acids, and (4) Ten minute gas measurements of hydrogen sulfide, methanethiol, dimethylsulfide, and larger organic sulfur compounds.

5. Understanding the effect of heat fluxes on ammonia (NH3) and greenhouse gas emissions from swine waste lagoon. Anaerobic lagoons are effective and low-cost bioreactors to treat animal manure but they are also responsible for emissions of numerous atmospheric pollutants including NH3, greenhouse gases, and odorous compounds such as skatoles. Researchers from the ARS unit in Bowling Green, KY, along with researchers from Western Kentucky University and the University of Iowa conducted experiments to understand the effect of heat fluxes on the emission of ammonia and greenhouse gases from swine waste lagoons. They examined the effect of photochemical processes such as solar radiation on ammonia and greenhouse gases emission profile from an anaerobic swine lagoon as a case study for adopting better management strategies and designing alternative remedial options. Mathematical models based on artificial neural network were constructed to simulate and understand the effect of photochemical processes on the emissions of ammonia and greenhouse gases from swine waste lagoon. These models could serve as useful tools for evaluating and implementing best management practices in minimizing ammonia and greenhouse gases emissions from swine or any other livestock waste receptacles. Incorporating various heat fluxes such as net solar radiation, sensible heat, and latent heat of vaporization improves the accuracy of the predictive model on ammonia and greenhouse gases emissions.

6. Investigating the effect of windrow management on ammonia and greenhouse gases emissions from swine manure composting. The method of application of liquid manure is the surface spray, in which the manure is broadcast-applied on the soil surface. This method can lead to major losses of essential nutrients for crops such as nitrogen and carbon compounds. This technique can also create a major emission problem in dispersing malodorous and other gaseous compounds in the air. Composting of these animal manures is a viable option for biomass and pathogenic reduction in the environment. Nevertheless, composting also increases the potential loss of available nutrients for crop production as well as unwanted emission of anthropogenic air pollutants due to the loss of ammonia and other compounds via volatilization. Researchers from the ARS unit in Bowling Green, KY, conducted experiments to understand the effect of windrow management on the emissions of ammonia and greenhouse gases during the composting of swine manure amended with woodchip as absorbent materials. Results showed that turning frequency of compost piles not only physically increased the emissions of ammonia and greenhouse gases, but also have biochemical effect on the production of these air pollutants in the compost piles. Although composting of animal waste is quite beneficial for biomass reduction, composting may not be economically feasible from an agronomical point of view due to time, nutrient loss (N loss), and potential environmental pollution (ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions). This information could be useful for farmers and producers when carrying out composting of liquid animal manures.


Review Publications
Loughrin, J.H., Lovanh, N.C., Cook, K.L. 2013. Improvement of anaerobic digester performance by wastewater recirculation through an aerated membrane. Transactions of the ASABE. 56(5):1675-1681.

Abit, S.M., Bolster, C.H., Cantrell, K.B., Flores, J.Q., Walker, S.L. 2014. Transport of Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, and microspheres in biochar-amended soils with different textures. Journal of Environmental Quality. 43:371-378.

Sistani, K.R., Jn-Baptiste, M., Simmons, J.R. 2014. Corn response to enhanced-efficiency nitrogen fertilizers and poultry litter. Agronomy Journal. 106(2):761-770.

Lanphere, J.D., Rogers, B., Luth, C., Bolster, C.H., Walker, S.L. 2014. Stability and transport of graphene oxide nanoparticles in groundwater and surface water. Environmental Engineering Science. 31(7):350-359.

Quintanar, A., Mahmood, R., Lovanh, N.C., Rawley, J.M., Becerra-Acosta, E., Loughrin, J.H. 2013. Estimating greenhouse gas emissions from a waste lagoon. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 29(4):511-519.