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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Florence, South Carolina » Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research » Research » Research Project #431207

Research Project: Improvement of Soil Management Practices and Manure Treatment/Handling Systems of the Southern Coastal Plain

Location: Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research

2018 Annual Report

1. Develop and test improved tillage and biomass management practices to enhance soil health and long-term agricultural productivity in the Southeastern Coastal Plain. 2. Develop manure treatment and handling systems that improve soil health and water quality while minimizing the emissions of greenhouse gases, odors and ammonia and the transport of phosphorus and pathogens. Subobjective 2a. Develop improved treatment systems and methods for ammonia and phosphorus recovery from liquid and solid wastes using gas-permeable membrane technology. Subobjective 2b. Develop improved biological treatment systems for liquid effluents and soils based on deammonification reaction using ARS patented bacterial anammox and high performance nitrifying sludge cultures. Subobjective 2c. Improve the ARS patented “Quick Wash” process for phosphorus recovery. Subobjective 2d. Assess treatment methods for their ability to reduce or eliminate pathogens and cell-free, microbially-derived DNA from agricultural waste streams. Subobjective 2e. Improved manure treatment and handling systems, and management strategies for minimizing emissions. Subobjective 2f. Assess the impact of manure treatment and handling systems on agricultural ecosystem services for soil, water, and air quality conservation and protection. 3. Develop beneficial uses of agricultural, industrial, and municipal byproducts, including manure. Subobjective 3a. Evaluate application of designer biochars to soils to increase crop yields while improving soil health, increasing carbon sequestration, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Subobjective 3b. Develop methods and guidelines to remediate mine soils using designer biochars. Subobjective 3c. Evaluate the agronomic value of byproducts produced from emerging manure and municipal waste treatment technologies.

New management practices and treatment technologies are required to help the nation’s crop and animal producers meet increasing economic and environmental challenges. These challenges include increasing soil productivity and health, as well as reducing unwanted atmospheric emissions, excessive nutrients, pathogens, and odors while concomitantly improving the affordability of animal waste treatment. To solve these challenges this research will pursue three complementary objectives. First, improved tillage and biomass management practices will be developed to enhance soil health and long-term agricultural productivity for Southeastern Coastal Plain soils. Long-term conservation tillage and crop management practices, including stover management and cover crops, will be evaluated to enhance soil productivity and limit the impact of climate change while enhancing nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration. Second, new manure treatment and handling technologies will be developed to improve soil health and water quality; to minimize emissions of greenhouse gases, odors, ammonia, and pathogens; and to maximize nutrient recovery. These technologies include: recovery of ammonia from manure using gas permeable membranes, enhanced biological nitrogen treatment via deammonification, biochar systems engineered to reduce odor, and new and improved methods of recovering phosphorus from manure. This research project will include covered anaerobic lagoons, thermal treatment, and acidification as technologies to reduce or destroy manure pathogens prior to land application. Third, we will develop beneficial uses for byproducts of manure treatments. This includes the use of biochars and hydrochars byproducts as soil amendments to improve physical and chemical properties, and as a fertilizer source for crop production. Research methods include laboratory, pilot-scale, and field-scale experiments using modern analytical equipment. Research products will advance the state of the science for more effective conservation and management of soil resources, innovative animal waste treatment technologies as environmentally-safe alternatives to traditional land application, and guidelines for beneficial byproduct utilization. Nationwide livestock producers, as well as Southeastern crop producers, will benefit from the findings of this research.

Progress Report
Field experiments are on-going to assess long-term (40 yrs) impacts of tillage (conservation vs. conventional) operations and crop management (row crop vs. cover crop) scenarios on CO2 production, soil organic carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, crop yields, and soil microbial community/enzymatic activity. In cooperation with co-operator in ITACyL, Spain, experiments were conducted to investigate the recovery of ammonia from swine manure using gas permeable membranes in semi-continuous flow. The experiments looked at the effect of ammonia removal on anaerobic digestion process. In cooperation with Renewable Nutrients LLC, investigated the recovery of ammonia using gas-permeable membrane technology to recover ammonia from side-stream municipal wastewater in pilot scale. In cooperation with Pancopia Inc., investigated activity of two ARS patented microbes (anammox bacteria Brocadia caroliniensis and high performance nitrification bacteria HPNS) in various scaffold media used to treat space wastewater in a National Aeronautics and Space Administration Small Business Innovation Research (NASA SBIR) Phase II project. Batch treatment laboratory experiments are on-going to test self-acidification of manure using selected rates of sugars and starch. Second year lagoon seasonal sampling was completed, and pathogen and DNA survivability assays for covered anaerobic lagoons was performed. Pathogen kill rates were determined for covered anaerobic lagoons, and microbial population differences between covered and open anaerobic lagoons was assessed. Manuscript is currently in preparation. Characterized odorous chemicals from swine manure and conducted bench-scale biochar sorption experiments to determine odorant sorption capacities of 10 biochar samples. Completed first year of field measurements of ammonia and methane emission rates from a covered swine lagoon. Established a field-scale experiment using designer biochars produced from pine chip, poultry litter, and blends to ascertain short-term (4 years) impacts on soil health characteristics, corn yields, and grain quality. Additionally, biochar impacts on soil microbial population dynamics and microbial enzymatic activity are also being assessed. (Obj. 3a) In cooperation with scientists in the Joint Program Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (FACCE-JPI) and United States Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) Project, completed two studies examining the effects of biochar on soil nitrification inhibitors and a meta-analysis of published biochar results on nitrate leaching and nitrous oxide (a potent greenhouse gas) formation. Biochar was found to impact the performance of the nitrification inhibitors resulting in higher nitrous production, however, in other studies biochar reduced nitrous oxide formation through greater nitrate binding. In cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, several biochars were evaluated for their ability to improve plant growth conditions and reduce heavy metal bioavailability in mine impacted soils at the Tri-State Mine site in Joplin, Missouri. Field and greenhouse experiments were also conducted using locally-derived microbial inoculants and amendments made with compost and biosolids to increase health characteristics in the mine chat piles and mine-impacted soils. (Obj. 3b) Completed laboratory emission study (carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide) of selected waste treatment byproducts used as amendments incorporated into soil. Laboratory experiments were carried to determine the effects compost mixed with biochar and sorbed clays on their carbon mineralization and residence time in soils was completed. Currently, conducting data analysis on emitted CO2 from these experiments (Obj. 3c). Conducted research to separate phosphorus and amino acids from manure in cooperation with a chemical company. Experiments evaluated the use of sugar beet molasses as acid precursors to substitute the use of acids and lower process costs.

1. Remediation of mine spoils using agricultural and municipal byproducts. Development of new remediation amendments is an important advancement for mine site restoration. For example, previous revegetation projects at a mine site in Oregon of untreated mine spoils produced limited plant establishment results because of the spoils poor water retention and acidic conditions that promoted heavy metal releases toxic to plants. By-products such as biochar (residue from thermal decomposition) and biosolids (dewatered sewage sludge) have material characteristics that can improve vegetation establishment in mine spoils because they contain plant nutrients, organic matter, and heavy metals binding properties. This trifecta can enhance both plant growth and soil moisture storage, while reducing toxicity of heavy metals to plants, animals and humans that may come in contact with mine spoil materials. ARS researchers at Florence, South Carolina, ARS-Corvallis, and EPA-Corvallis, Oregon, locations collaboratively engineered an amendment for mine spoils consisting of a mixture of biochar, biosolids, and lime. This engineered amendment was shown to improve plant nutrient uptake and moisture retention of an acidic, heavy metal containing mine spoil in laboratory and greenhouse studies. On a field trial for this new technology, the novel amendment was added to 119 bore holes drilled into spoil material at the mine site four months prior to Douglas fir trees were planted in these bore holes. After six months past planting, 114 of the 119 fir trees were thriving in the amended mine spoils. Establishing a vegetative cover at this mine site is needed because plant debris (e.g., leaves, bark, branches) contribute to formation of a topsoil layer rich in organic matter capable of reducing potential off-site movement of heavy metals. Users of this technology include soil health and land reclamation specialists, wastewater treatment operators, and bioenergy producers.

2. Reduction of gaseous ammonia in poultry barns using gas-permeable membranes. Conservation and recovery of nitrogen from livestock and urban wastes is important because of economic and environmental reasons. ARS researchers at Florence, South Carolina, developed new systems and methods that use gas-permeable membranes to collect and reuse ammonia harvested from wastes when operated in poultry barns to remove the ammonia from the air. The new process includes the passage of gaseous ammonia through gas-permeable membrane modules and subsequent capture and concentration in a stripping acid solution. The membrane manifolds are suspended inside the barns and the gaseous ammonia is removed close to the litter. ARS researchers at Florence, South Carolina, cooperated with University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) through a National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to demonstrate the technology at UMES chicken houses. In rooms fitted with the ammonia recovery system, the ammonia decreased 46% in the air and 45% in the litter, and bird mortality was reduced 47%. The new system is expected to offer poultry producers a better way to manage ammonia in the poultry barns.

Review Publications
Han, L., Ro, K.S., Sun, K., Sun, H., Libra, J.A., Xing, B. 2017. Oxidation resistance of biochars as a function of feedstock and pyrolysis condition. Science of the Total Environment.
Edralin, D.L., Sigua, G.C., Reyes, M.R., Mulvaney, M.J., Andrews, S.S. 2017. Conservation agriculture improves yield and reduces weeding activity in sandy soils of Cambodia. Agronomy for Sustainable Development. 37:52.
Ro, K.S., Szogi, A.A., Moore Jr, P.A. 2018. A simple mathematical method to estimate ammonia emission from in-house windrowing of poultry litter. Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A.
Ducey, T.F., Bauer, P.J., Sigua, G.C., Hunt, P.G., Miller, J.O., Cantrell, K.B. 2018. Manure-derived biochars for use as a phosphorus fertilizer in cotton production. Journal of Cotton Science. 21:259-264.
Daguerre-Martini, S., Vanotti, M.B., Rodriguez-Pastor, M., Moral Herrero, R. 2018. Nitrogen recovery from wastewater using gas-permeable membranes: Impact of inorganic carbon content and natural organic matter. Water Research. 137:201-210.
Ro, K.S., Li, H., Hapeman, C.J., Harper, L.A., Flesch, T.K., Downey, P.M., Mcconnell, L., Torrents, A., Yao, Q. 2018. Enhanced dispersion and removal of ammonia emitted from a poultry house with a vegetative environmental buffer. Agriculture.
Nash, P.R., Gollany, H.T., Novak, J.M., Bauer, P.J., Hunt, P.G., Karlen, D.L. 2018. Simulated soil organic carbon response to tillage, yield, and climate change in the southeastern Coastal Plains. Journal of Environmental Quality. 47:663-673.
Novak, J.M., Ippolito, J.A., Ducey, T.F., Watts, D.W., Spokas, K.A., Trippe, K.M., Sigua, G.C., Johnson, M.G. 2018. Remediation of an acidic mine spoil: Miscanthus biochar and lime amendment affects metal availability, plant growth and soil enzymatic activity. Chemosphere. 205:709-718.
Filho-Oliveira, J.D., Daguerre-Martini, S., Vanotti, M.B., Saez-Tovar, J., Rosal, A., Perez-Murcia, M.D., Bustamante, M., Moral, R. 2018. Recovery of ammonia in raw and co-digested swine manure using gas-permeable membrane technology. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems.
Molinuevo-Salces, B., Riano, B., Vanotti, M.B., Garcia-Gonzalez, M.C. 2018. Gas-permeable membrane technology coupled with anaerobic digestion for swine manure treatment. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 2:25.
Szogi, A.A., Vanotti, M.B., Shumaker, P.D. 2018. Economic recovery of calcium phosphates from swine lagoon sludge using quick wash process and geotextile filtration. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 2:37.