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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Adaptive Cropping Systems Laboratory » Research » Research Project #431799

Research Project: Developing Practices for Nutrient and Byproducts to Mitigate Climate Change, Improve Nutrient Utilization, and Reduce Effects on Environment

Location: Adaptive Cropping Systems Laboratory

2018 Annual Report

Objective 1: Develop strategies using cover cropping and biosolids management to mitigate green-house gas (GHG) emissions and improve soil health. 1.A) Evaluate soil carbon (C) sequestration with cover crops to mitigate GHG emissions. 1.B) Evaluate the ability of biosolids management strategies to sequester C and thereby reduce GHG emissions. Objective 2: Develop strategies for managing fertilizer-N in cropping systems and manure NH3-N in high-residue tillage systems, to improve N-use efficiency and air quality. 2.A) Conduct field crop research with a corn-wheat-soybean rotation to evaluate 15N uptake efficiencies of genetically modified corn, conservation of N by cover crops, and soybean N2 fixation. 2.B) Evaluate and develop best management practices for reducing ammonia volatilization and to estimate ammonia losses from manures. Objective 3: Improve descriptions of biological mechanisms controlling bioactive P release to soils, and develop improved fate models and conservation practices to enhance P use efficiency. 3.A) Evaluate nutrient conservation practices based on enhanced understanding of rhizosphere microbiology and enzymology that regulate the release of bioactive manure-P and soil-P to crops and soil. 3.B) Evaluate relevance of current algorithms in use to include rhizosphere microbiology and enzymology processes when modeling P behavior and transport in APEX and similar models. Objective 4: Develop beneficial uses of agricultural, industrial, and municipal byproducts to enhance crop production and reduce risks to the environment from potential contaminants. 4.A) Conduct phytostabilization research using mixtures of organic resources with byproducts and alkaline amendments to achieve functional remediation and revegetation of barren and biologically dead metal contaminated soils. 4.B) Conduct phytoextraction/phytomining research to identify effective plant species and optimize the agronomic productivity of phytoextraction technologies. 4.C) Conduct research and risk evaluation to assess the risks and benefits from use of industrial, municipal and agricultural byproducts to improve crop production and reduce risk to the environment from byproduct constituents. 4.D) Investigate the use of mixtures of organic amendments, limestone byproducts, flue gas desulfurization gypsum and leachable alkalinity to correct subsoil acidity and improve soil fertility.

Obj. 1A. A replicated six-year field experiment will be completed to evaluate the rate and quantity of carbon sequestrated by winter cover-crops of rye, hairy vetch, and a rye plus hairy vetch mixture, as compared to a traditional no-cover condition. These data will assess and develop agricultural practices for mitigating global warming. Obj. 1B. Agricultural use of biosolids could improve soil carbon sequestration and thereby reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Replicated field research will be conducted on plots previously treated with different rates and types of biosolids, to determine if biosolids can increase soil carbon sequestration. Obj. 2A. Labeled nitrogen fertilizer will be used in a corn-wheat-soybean rotation to evaluate nitrogen use efficiencies of genetically modified and non-modified corn, to measure conservation of corn residual fertilizer by winter-wheat, and to estimate nitrogen fixation of double-crop soybeans. Improving nitrogen use efficiency will reduce nitrogen losses to the environment while maintaining profitability. Obj. 2B. Ammonia volatilization is a major loss of plant-available nitrogen from surface applied manures. A series of wind tunnel field studies will be conducted to evaluate the ability of new high-residue tillage implements to conserve ammonia, but still maintain surface residues to control erosion. Obj. 3A. Laboratory incubation-fractionation studies will be conducted to mathematically describe phosphorus transformations and availability in manured soils. These results will assess the advantages and disadvantages of adding organic-phosphorus turnover to existing models. Obj. 3B. A critical evaluation of phosphorus transformation and transport modules within existing phosphorus models will be conducted by validation against long-term field and simulated rainfall studies. The evaluation will focus on the use of rhizosphere microbiology and enzymology for modeling phosphorus. Obj. 4A. Two field locations will be studied using various mixtures of industrial, municipal, and agricultural byproducts to remediate and revegetate barren and heavy-metal contaminated soils. The studies will monitor plant yield and composition to assess byproduct performance and possible risks to wildlife. Obj. 4B. Growth chamber and greenhouse research on phyto-mining will use various fertilizer nutrients and topsoil/subsoil combinations to identify plant species and management practices that optimize agronomic productivity and that extract nickel from nickel-rich soils. Obj. 4C. A two-year field study will be conducted in Appalachia comparing the uptake of nutrients and metals by peanut and wheat from additions of poultry litter, flue gas desulfurization gypsum, and mined gypsum. A risk assessment on the use of flue gas desulfurization gypsum and mined gypsum in U.S. soils will also be done. Obj. 4D. A greenhouse study will be conducted to evaluate mixtures of organic amendments, limestone byproducts, flue gas desulfurization gypsum, and leachable alkalinity to correct subsoil acidity for alfalfa. Subsoil acidity commonly limits rooting depth in soils across the mid-Atlantic and Southern regions of the U.S..

Progress Report
Obj. 1A. The fifth year of a six-year field experiment was completed to evaluate the rate and quantity of carbon sequestrated by winter cover-crops of rye, hairy vetch, and a rye plus hairy vetch mixture, as compared to a traditional no-cover condition. The cover crop dry matter production, carbon content, and nitrogen content were measured, as well as the yield of the following corn-crop. These data provide a fifth data point that documents the annual carbon and nitrogen additions to the soil-crop system from cover crops. These cumulative annual carbon and nitrogen additions over the six-year study should give an estimate of the carbon sequestration potential of cover crops for remediation of climate change. Obj. 1B. The second year of the four-year study was completed to study the effects of biosolids on soil carbon levels. In collaboration with scientists from New Jersey, Chicago, and Virginia, over 300 soil samples were collected from 17 sites in three states. Methods were developed and validated and soil samples are being processed for total carbon analysis. Obj. 2A. The second-year phase of a two-year Corn-Wheat-Soybean rotation was completed at the first location, and the first-year phase of the same rotation was begun at a second location. This rotation study applied five rates of 15N labeled nitrogen fertilizer to genetically modified and non-modified corn to measure corn N uptake and grain yield. The corn’s recovery of the labeled nitrogen will provide a direct measurement of the corn nitrogen uptake efficiency. Fall soil samples were taken before establishing winter wheat to trace the labeled nitrogen into the winter-wheat crop. The double-cropped soybeans after the wheat successfully grew nodulating and non-nodulating soybeans that will provide estimates of nitrogen fixation. The plant and soil samples collected are being analyzed for nitrogen and data summaries are being prepared with the goal of estimating the fertilizer nitrogen additions and removals from a common grain production rotation in the mid-Atlantic region. Obj. 2B. A field study was completed to characterize the ability of common high-residue tillage implements to preserve residue cover for reducing erosion, yet provide some degree of soil incorporation of surface-applied liquid manure to reduce ammonia losses. The implements evaluated included the chisel plow, turbo-till cultivator, aerway spiked-tooth cultivator, and the phoenix harrow. Field ammonia volatilization studies with wind tunnels were also conducted to directly evaluate the ability of several of the above high-residue tillage implements to reduce ammonia losses and maintain residue cover. The samples from the ammonia volatilization studies are being analyzed and summarized statistically in preparation for publication. Obj. 3A. The first-year of a replicated laboratory study was completed to derive a quantitative description of phosphorus transformations and extractability in two soils. The soils were amended with organic phytate-phosphorus and poultry litter obtained from a local commercial farm. Selected forms of bioactive P were measured in the soils under two ambient temperature regimes and the phosphorus changes were determined over time. An equivalent field incubation was also implemented where short soil columns containing similar phosphorus sources and rates were buried in the field where leaching loss was minimized or leaching was allowed to occur. Obj. 3B. Accumulated phosphorus at the soil surface could elevate the levels of labile phosphorus lost to runoff or to water infiltrating into soil sub-surface layers. Laboratory column studies were conducted to determine phosphorus transport characteristics for soils and moisture regimes of the mid-Atlantic. Repeated cycles of loading, followed by depletion, were found to enhance the soil phosphorus saturation a finite layer at a time, which correspondingly reduced the soil phosphorus retention capacity a finite layer at a time. The presence of small organic substances that can bind metallic elements in the soil water also facilitated phosphorus transport compared to artificial rainwater that contained none of these organic substances. Such organic materials are formed and released during the breakdown of animal manure or crop residues. These results indicate that the composition of the influent solution was a critical factor in determining the extent of the vertical distribution of phosphorus in soils receiving repeated large loads of phosphorus. An initial mathematical description of bioactive phosphorus transformations was developed for soils amended with poultry litter high in organic phosphorus, and will be evaluated for use in phosphorus transformation modules. Obj. 4A. No progress to report due to SY retirement, vacancy on hold. Obj. 4B. No progress to report due to SY retirement, vacancy on hold. Obj. 4C. The second year of the four-year study was completed, in collaboration with an ARS scientist at Auburn, Alabama. This field experiment with Fluidized Gas Desulfurization Gypsum was established to evaluate the plant growth effects of this gypsum byproduct on peanuts followed by wheat. Plant and soil samples were collected and are being processed and analyzed for macro and microelements. Obj. 4D. The second year of the four-year experiment has been completed, which is studying the amelioration of subsoil acidity by use of organic amendments and byproducts. Polyvinyl Chloride cylinders (10 cm dimeter x 60 cm long) have been purchased and are being prepared for packing with amended soil. Germination test of alfalfa seed are also underway.

1. Ammonia losses from surface-applied manure are large, but can be reduced with management. Ammonia volatilization is a major loss process for surface-applied manures that commonly amounts to 10-30% of the total nitrogen from manure. These ammonia emissions are an economic loss of an essential plant nutrient for farmers, as well as a contributor to air pollution and to degradation of aquatic and natural ecosystems. Ammonia losses are quite variable and depend on application method, air temperature, wind speed, manure dry-matter content, and residue cover. Ammonia volatilization data from 1,895 manure studies at 22 research institutes across Europe and North America were summarized into a searchable database. The main database elements include the ammonia emissions, manure application method, soil and manure properties, and weather conditions. The database will be valuable for scientists, nutrient management advisors, producers, and policy makers for development of improved ammonia management practices and emission models.

2. Added mineral phosphorus alters the native soil phosphorus. Excess phosphorus is a persistent source of labile (easily altered) phosphorus in soils amended with animal manures. There are mandates to restrict and limit land application of mineral phosphorus to sustainable rates. ARS researchers at Beltsville, Maryland, conducted a year-long study of the re-distribution of added phosphorus in soils. About less than half of the added phosphorus was immediately allocated to the water-soluble mineral fraction, and the remainder to more stable labile forms of the soil. At the same time, added phosphorus triggered the release and transfer of native soil organic phosphorus to the pool of labile phosphorus forms. About 50% of the added phosphorus is not available for plant use.

Review Publications
Hafner, S.D., Pacholski, A.S., Bittman, S., Burchill, W., Bussink, W.D., Chantigny, M.H., Carozzi, M., Genermont, S., Hani, C., Hansen, M.N., Huijsmans, J.F., Hunt, D.E., Kupper, T., Lanigan, G.J., Loubet, B., Misselbrook, T.H., Meisinger, J.J., Neftel, A., Nyord, T., Pedersen, S.V., Rochette, P., Sintermann, J., Thompson, R.B., Vermeulen, G.D., Vestergaard, A., Voylokov, P., Williams, J.R., Sommer, S.G. 2017. The ALFAM2 database on ammonia emission from field-applied manure: description and illustrative analysis. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology.
Morris, T.F., Ketterings, Q.M., Spargo, J.T., Meisinger, J.J. 2018. Strengths and limitations of nitrogen recommendations for corn and opportunities for improvements. Agronomy Journal. 110(1):1-37.
Siebecker, M.G., Chaney, R.L., Sparks, D.L. 2017. Nickel speciation in several serpentine (ultramafic) topsoils via bulk synchrotron-based techniques. Geoderma. 298:35-45.
Blaustein, R.A., Dao, T.H., Pachepsky, Y.A., Shelton, D.R. 2017. Differential release of manure-borne bioactive P Forms to runoff and leachate under simulated rain. Journal of Environmental Management. 192:309-318.
Centofanti, T., Chaney, R.L., Beyer, W.N., Mcconnell, L.L., Davis, A.P., Jackson, D.S. 2016. Assessment of trace element accumulation by earthworms in a DDT remediation study. Journal of Water Air and Soil Pollution. 227(9):350.
Delgado, J.A., Weyers, S.L., Dell, C.J., Harmel, R.D., Kleinman, P.J., Sistani, K.R., Leytem, A.B., Huggins, D.R., Strickland, T.C., Kitchen, N.R., Meisinger, J.J., Del Grosso, S.J., Johnson, J.M., Balkcom, K.S., Finley, J.W., Fukagawa, N.K., Powell, J.M., Van Pelt, R.S. 2016. USDA Agricultural Research Service creates Nutrient Uptake and Outcome Network (NUOnet) Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 71(6):147A-148A.
Schomberg, H.H., Endale, D.M., Jenkins, M., Chaney, R.L., Franklin, D.H. 2018. Metals in soil and runoff from a piedmont hayfield amended with broiler litter and flue gas desulfurization gypsum. Journal of Environmental Quality. 47:326-335.