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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Mississippi State, Mississippi » Crop Science Research Laboratory » Genetics and Sustainable Agriculture Research » Research » Research Project #425032

Research Project: Integration of Site-Specific Crop Production Practices and Industrial and Animal Agricultural Byproducts to Improve Agricultural Competitiveness and Sustainability

Location: Genetics and Sustainable Agriculture Research

2014 Annual Report

Obj 1. Develop ecological and sustainable site-specific agriculture systems, for cotton, corn, wheat, and soybean rotations. 1: Geographical coordinates constitutes necessary and sufficient cornerstone required to define, develop and implement ecological/sustainable agricultural systems. 2: Develop methods of variable-rate manure application based on soil organic matter (SOM), apparent electrical conductivity, elevation, or crop yield maps. 3: Relate SOM, electrical conductivity, and elevation. Obj 2. Develop sustainable and scalable practices for site-specific integration of animal agriculture byproducts to improve food, feed, fiber, and feedstock production systems. 1: Quantify effects of management on sustainability for sweet potato. 2: Balance soil phosphorus (P)/micro–nutrients using broiler litter/flue gas desulfurization (FGD) gypsum. 3: Effects of site-specific broiler litter applications. 4: Manure application/crop management practices in southern U.S. 5: Compare banded/broadcast litter applications in corn. 6: Develop reflectance algorithms for potassium in wheat. 7: Determine swine mortality compost value in small farm vegetable production. Obj 3. Analyze the economics of production practices for site-specific integration of animal agriculture byproducts to identify practices that are economically sustainable, scalable, and that increase competitiveness and profitability of production systems. 1: Evaluate economics of on-farm resource utilization in the south. Obj 4. Determine the environmental effects in soil, water, and air from site-specific integration of animal agricultural and industrial byproducts into production practices to estimate risks and benefits from byproduct nutrients, microbes, and management practices. 1: Quantitatively determine bioaerosol transport. 2: Role of P and nitrogen (N) immobilizing agents in corn production. 3: Assess impact of management on water sources. 4: Impact of FGD gypsum/rainfall on mobilization of organic carbon/veterinary pharmaceutical compounds in runoff/leached water. 5: Assess soil microbial ecology, antibiotic resistance, and pathogen changes using manure and industrial byproducts in crop production systems. 6: Develop nutrient management practices for sustainable crop production. 7: Develop nutrient management practices for reclaimed coal mine soils. 8: Determine effects of poultry litter/swine lagoon effluent in swine mortality composts. 9: Determine survival of fecal bacterial pathogens on contaminated plant tissue. 10: Identify agricultural/industrial byproducts that modify the breakdown of organic matter. Obj 5. Integrate research data into regional and national databases and statistical models to improve competitiveness and sustainability of farming practices. 1: Develop broiler house emission models. 2: Apply quantitative microbial risk assessment models to animal agriculture/anthropogenic activities. Obj 6. Develop statistical approaches to integrate and analyze large and diverse spatial and temporal geo-referenced data sets derived from crop production systems that include ecological and natural resource based inputs. 1: Develop novel methods of imaging processing.

Multidisciplinary approaches will be utilized in developing sustainable and competitive agricultural practices for crop management systems. Some approaches will use animal, municipal, and industrial waste as fertilizers and organic soil amendments in crop management systems in precision agriculture ways. Presence, prevalence, and fate of nutrients, gaseous emissions, bacterial approaches, and antibiotic resistance associated with these wastes when applied to soils in cropping systems will be addressed. Work will be done in cooperator animal feeding operations (AFO), farms, and experiment station plots. Off-site transport of nutrients, pathogens, and antibiotic resistant bacteria will be determined. Statistical models will be developed for geo-referenced measurements of farming practices and improvements to mixed model analysis methodology will be developed. Remotely sensed data will be combined with on-site field measurements to develop site-specific prescriptions for application of crop management inputs. Information will be developed into best management practices to protect the environment and human and animal health by maximizing crop nutrient utilization, minimizing bacterial contamination and antibiotic resistance, and reducing ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions. Agricultural models will be used to predict sustainability and competitiveness of management practices developed and implemented into best management practice recommendations.

Progress Report
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software was used to derive zonal statistics, the maximum, minimum, mean, range, and standard deviation. The zonal polygons used were those created by yield monitor equipped harvesters, and matched the size of the harvesting swaths. Any raster surface of any attribute, from any proximal, remote sensing system can be summarized for these five statistics of each swath element polygon. These zonal statistics can then be utilized as variables in many kinds of statistical analysis. A limitation is that many potential users do not yet fully understand what this capability can add to their experimental procedures. Another limitation is that it is difficult to effectively manage the large amounts of data produced for input into an analysis or created from the completed analysis. A variable rate of poultry litter was successfully applied based on prescription written following the generation of geo-referenced field maps based on inherent variation in soil organic matter (SOM), apparent electrical conductivity (ECa), and topographical map. The research is designed to identify which of the prescriptions (SOM, ECa, or topography) is more effective for corn and cotton yield and for reducing the amount of litter needed for optimal yield. Sustainability of repeated poultry litter application has been measured using chemical analysis of soil samples taken after harvesting three crops in a rotation (cotton, corn, and soybean). This revealed trends that indicate rotating crops may be necessary to minimize the buildup of excess nutrients derived from repeated poultry litter application. Subsurface banding of raw broiler litter showed that up to 9 tons per acre can be applied to soils. This is a greater rate than can be applied by traditional surface applications. Spacing of subsurface bands of poultry litter showed that the spacing between two consecutive subsurface bands may not be important for cotton yield. This research was continued to test the performance of cotton planted in plots that had received solid poultry litter in the previous three years by subsurface banding spaced every 12 or 40 inches (30 or 100 cm) with no further fertilization. Winter and spring plantings of Magnolia variety of wheat were grown in a greenhouse for 30 days under three fertilizer treatments of complete, minus nitrogen, and minus potassium, variations of Hoagland’s nutrient solutions. Two fully-expanded leaves on the main stem were used for measurements of reflectance and transmittance (450-1095 nanometers (nm), 5 nm resolution) and chlorophyll and potassium concentrations. Plants were harvested approximately 60 days after transplanting and sampled for leaf area, shoot and root biomass, and leaf nutrient concentration. The data sets will be analyzed using multivariate to determine relationships between the waveband or waveband ratio with changes in a leaf constituent. On a cooperator’s small farm, an experimental study area of approximately two acres was identified and geo-referenced; treatment plots were marked. Pretreatment soil samples were collected and analyzed to establish baseline soil test nutrient levels and compost, and gypsum treatments were applied in the fall of 2013. Soil samples were collected in spring 2014 to assess treatment effects. Characterization of cooperator farm combining anaerobic digestion of poultry litter biomass broilers to heat poultry houses and solar energy supplements have begun. Economic analyses/resource sustainability for on-farm energy independence will be determined in the next research phase. A cooperator farm was intensively sampled for the presence of bioaerosols following land application of swine effluent. Effluent application was also sampled during this time period as it was readily available. Samples were collected from 10 to 50 m downwind of the operation during the summer application season. Effluent and aerosol samples were collected from July through October to characterize the growing season manure source and aerosol plume. Nine sub-watershed locations were identified throughout Mississippi and sampled monthly from January throughout the year. Water and soil samples were collected throughout this time period and analyzed to establish fecal (culture) and genetic (molecular) marker presence throughout winter, spring, and summer seasons. Additionally, fecal samples were characterized from locations when samples were available. A field and macrocosm column study were carried out whereby the addition of organic matter (fecal material) and variable moisture’s impact on pathogen survival were monitored. Soil (field) and fecal (column) samples were measured for pathogen presence and persistence throughout spring and early summer of 2014. A second study measuring the impact of rhizosphere populations was initiated in August 2014. Swine mortality composting experiments were completed and composts from containers with and without passive aeration were analyzed for nutrients, zoonotic bacteria, and gaseous emissions. Data has been compiled for statistical analyses. An experimental system was established employing Cone-tainer racks to support soil columns in plastic tubing inside controlled temperature chambers in the lab, and methods were developed for placement and monitoring of zoonotic pathogens in the soil. Litter gas production of ammonia and greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane) and litter properties (temperature, moisture content, acidity, nutrients) were analyzed for intermittent broiler flocks with litter aged 2 to 5 years. Results will initially be used to develop a deterministic model for relationships among the parameters associated with location within broiler houses. When completed, producers will have a decision tool to mitigate emissions as well as determine where nutrient extremes occur; the model can also be used for improvements in house structure and litter management. Software prototypes to calculate the various bit-planes of any image product have been developed for both Erdas-Imagine and Matlab. An early software prototype to automate the derivation of zonal statistics for any kind of raster image product has been developed. Once the data are imported into the Statistical Analysis System (SAS), statistical measures describing patterns of spatial autocorrelation can be estimated. Once these measures are estimated, insight into the spatial pattern of an agricultural ecosystem is best quantified. Initial results suggest that this approach to image analyses provides many opportunities for learning new knowledge about agricultural fields. Cooperation with a crop consultant in the West Texas High Plains and a producer in the Mississippi Delta have explored diverse methods of georeferenced information from several sensor types to develop and then analyze effects of variable rate seeding across several management zones. A large commercial corn field was utilized at each location. The analysis of results for the Texas location indicated that the consultant’s expertise in setting the seeding rates by zone was very close to the predicted, optimized, seeding rates. However, if the predicted seeding rates derived after harvest had been used, there would have been an expectation of lower seeding costs without an adverse effect upon yield. These experiments also show the need to use an experimental design that provides a way to monitor cultivar by environment interaction.

1. Moisture and organic matter increase pathogen persistence. Foodborne bacterial pathogens are influenced by the combination of organic matter and moisture content of the surrounding soil. The pathogen, once present in the soil, can persist for long periods of time, up to 210 days, if given ideal conditions such as high organic matter and soil moisture. Scientists in the Genetics and Precision Agriculture Research Unit at Mississippi State, MS, measured the survival of foodborne pathogens in various combinations of soil, fecal waste, and moisture level using microcosms and column studies. Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter persisted for varying times, although Salmonella combined with cattle manure appeared to persist for the longest period of time. The column study demonstrated the varying effect of groundwater level, with ground water levels between 45 and 15 cm below the surface demonstrating large differences in survival, while immediately below the surface was similar to 15 cm below the surface, due to a vertical wicking effect. The research demonstrates that foodborne pathogens only require moisture in the surrounding soil and an organic matter source to persist for long periods of time, which may help explain the potential contamination scenarios responsible for recent outbreaks.

Review Publications
Tewolde, H., Sistani, K.R., Adeli, A. 2013. Fall- and spring-applied poultry litter effectiveness as corn fertilizer in the mid-southern United States. Agronomy Journal. 105:1743-1748.
Iqbal, J., Read, J.J., Whisler, F. 2013. Using remote sensing and soil physical properties for predicting the spatial distribution of cotton lint yield. Turkish Journal of Field Crops. 18:158-165.
Adeli, A., Brooks, J.P., McLaughlin, M.R., Read, J.J., Willers, J.L., Lang, D., McGrew, R. 2013. Age chronosequence effects on restoration quality of reclaimed coal mine soils in Mississipian agroecosystems. Soil Science. 178:335-343.
Sheng, J., Adeli, A., Brooks, J.P., McLaughlin, M.R., Read, J.J. 2014. Effects of bedding materials in applied broiler litter and immobilizing agents on runoff water, soil properties, and bermudagrass growth. Journal of Environmental Quality. 43:290-296.
Roberts, B.N., Bailey, R.H., McLaughlin, M.R., Miles, D.M., Brooks, J.P. 2013. Spatial and temporal analysis of microbial populations in production broiler house litter in the southeastern U.S. Journal of Applied Poultry Research. 22:759-770.
Jayakody, P., Parajuli, P.B., Brooks, J.P. 2014. Evaluating spatial and temporal variability of fecal coliform bacteria loads at Pelahatchie Watershed in Mississippi. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment. 20:1023-1041.
Read, J.J., McLaughlin, M.R., Jenkins, J.N., Fairbrother, T.E. 2013. Berseem clover seeding rate and harvest management effects on forage yields and nutrient uptake in a swine-effluent spray field. Grass and Forage Science. 69:365-375.
Tewolde, H., Sistani, K.R. 2014. Cotton production improvement and environmental concerns from poultry litter application in southern and southeastern USA soils. In: He, Z., Zhang, H., editors. Applied Manure and Nutrient Chemistry for Sustainable Agriculture and Environment. New York, NY: Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. p. 355-370.
Kong, X., Lal, R., Li, B., Liu, H., Li, K., Feng, G.G., Zhang, Q., Zhang, B. 2014. Fertilizer intensification and its impacts in China's HHH Plains. In: Sparks, D.L., editor. Advances in Agronomy Volume 25. Burlington, NJ: Academic Press. p. 135-169.
Brooks, J.P., Adeli, A., McLaughlin, M.R. 2014. Microbial ecology, bacterial pathogens, and antibiotic resistant genes in swine manure as influenced by three swine management systems. Water Research. 57:96-103.
Miles, D.M., Moore Jr., P.A., Burns, R.T., Brooks, J.P. 2014. Ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions from a commercial broiler house. Journal of Environmental Quality. 43:1119-1124.
Gao, F., Feng, G.G., Sharratt, B.S., Zhang, M. 2014. Tillage and straw management affect PM10 emission potential in subarctic Alaska. Soil and Tillage Research. 144:1-7.
Willers, J.L., Roberts, D., O'Hara, C., Milliken, G., Hood, K., Walters, J., Schuster, E. 2012. The illuminating role of laser scanning digital elevation models in precision agriculture experimental designs - an agro-ecology perspective. In: Rodriguez, J.A.M., editor. Laser Scanner Technology. Rijeka, Croatia: Intech. p. 221-258.
Willers, J.L., Teauge, T.G., Milliken, G., Bourland, F.M. 2014. Effects of field plot size on variation in white flower anther injury by tarnished plant bug for host plant resistance evaluations in Arkansas cotton. Agronomy. 4:144-164.