Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Multi-scale Investigation of Winter Runoff and Nutrient Loss Processes in Actively Managed Dairy Agroecosystems

Location: Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management Research

Project Number: 5090-12630-005-09-R
Project Type: Reimbursable

Start Date: Sep 1, 2013
End Date: Aug 31, 2016

Agricultural nutrient management is an important area of research and policy development due to water quality degradation by nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). Manure application to fields without incorporation is a significant source of N and P loss in runoff. Winter application of dairy manure, which is commonly practiced, is risky given frequent occurrence of runoff from snowmelt and rain-on-snow events. Many states restrict winter spreading of dairy manure, but little process-oriented research of winter runoff and manure nutrient loss has been conducted to support restrictions. Our project will investigate and improve the understanding and modeling of biochemical and physical processes controlling frozen-soil and snowmelt infiltration, runoff, and nutrient loss from soil and applied manure for actively managed dairy systems. Our objectives are to: i) conduct multi-scale experiments to investigate processes controlling winter runoff and nutrient loss from soil and manure; ii) develop novel model routines for winter manure runoff that can be incorporated into process-based, field and watershed-scale models; and iii) use runoff monitoring data to evaluate new model routines. Results will be novel because there is little to no process-level research of N and P loss in runoff from winter-applied dairy manure. Results will inform policy, guidelines, and prediction tools in northern-tier U.S. states where winter manure application is practiced. Better prediction tools that assess N and P loss from agroecosystems and evaluate if new practices and technologies can reduce that loss will help improve U.S. agricultural sustainability by enhancing environmental quality and agricultural economic viability.

Test-tube manure water extractions will be conducted to provide data on how winter variables influence nutrient release from manure during periods of snowmelt or rain on snow. Dairy manure will be subjected to different temperature conditions, including frozen or incubated to attain temperatures of ~2°, 5°, and 10°C. These manures will be mixed in test-tubes with de-ionized water at temperatures of ~2° and 5° at water:manure dry weight equivalent solids ratios of 20, 50, 100, and 250. Mixtures will be shaken in conditions to maintain the target water temperatures for 0.5, 1, 2, and 4 hours. After shaking, samples will be analyzed for dissolved P, NH4-N, and NO3-N. Funnel and soil-column manure leaching experiments will be conducted to provide data on nutrient release from dairy manure on the soil surface during snowmelt and rain on snow. Manure and snow will be packed into 20-cm diameter plastic funnels or on top of soil columns in ways to simulate winter manure application. Manure quantities will include three equivalent field application rates of 2000, 4000, and 8000 gallons per acre, while the snow quantity will be held constant at 7.5 cm depth. Manure will be placed under snow, between two 3.75 cm snow layers, or on top of snow. Manure will be leached by water in two ways, either by snowmelt or by applying artificially simulated rain to the funnels. For the snowmelt experiments, snow in funnels will be allowed to melt under natural outdoor conditions. For rain experiments, funnels or columns will be placed under a rainfall simulator that will apply rain at a rate of ~1.5 cm per hour for 1 h, which will represent a typical winter/spring rain on snow. All water runoff samples will be analyzed for solid particle quantity and total N and P, and filtered samples (0.45 um) will be analyzed for dissolved P, NH4-N, and NO3-N. All experiments up to this point will involve ARS collaboration. Plot-scale runoff experiments will be conducted at the University of Wisconsin. Fields will represent two land uses, including a tilled, rough soil surface typical of cornfields, and a smooth soil surface typical of hay fields. These plots will be equipped with runoff collection system appropriate for this scale experiment. Dairy manure will be applied to plots to simulate typical manure application strategies, including no manure, manure applied in the fall before freezing conditions and left unincorporated over the winter, and manure applied in the winter to frozen or snow-covered soils. Runoff from naturally occurring snowmelt and rainfall events will be collected. Unfiltered runoff samples will be analyzed for sediment and total N and P, and filtered samples will be analyzed for dissolved P, NH4-N, and NO3-N. At the beginning and end of the experiments, soils will be analyzed for available N and P to determine the addition of these nutrients to soil in infiltrating manure leachate. ARS personnel will collaborate in developing a simulation model for winter manure runoff based on the existing SurPhos model, and to develop algorithms for winter conditions. Available runoff monitoring data will be used to evaluate the new winter manure P runoff model.

Last Modified: 2/23/2016
Footer Content Back to Top of Page