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ARS Home » Plains Area » Lincoln, Nebraska » Agroecosystem Management Research » Research » Research Project #441129

Research Project: Managing Manure as a Soil Resource for Improved Biosecurity, Nutrient Availability, and Soil Sustainability

Location: Agroecosystem Management Research

Project Number: 3042-12630-004-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jul 13, 2021
End Date: Jul 12, 2026

Objective 1: Determine the movement of nitrogen into and out of agroecosystems at critical points and develop practices to ameliorate losses. Subobjective 1A: Develop a deep carbon injection practice utilizing byproduct cellulose to reduce nitrate leaching in sandy soils. Subobjective 1B: Coordinate laboratory ammonia measurement to better estimate ammonia deposition impacts from nearby animal feeding operations. Subobjective 1C: Determine the effects of emerging agricultural contaminants on nutrient transformation and decomposition. Objective 2: Measure and mitigate pathogens, fecal indicators, and antibiotic resistance in agriculturally impacted environments and determine their interactions with healthy soils to lessen risk from the agricultural environments to natural environments. Subobjective 2A: Develop and validate methods to detect and quantify AR genes, AR pathogens, and AR commensal organisms in agronomic and environmental matrices with a focus on resistance classes that are a human health priority, and that align with global AR surveillance efforts. Subobjective 2B: Develop, optimize, and apply AgCROS Data Entry Templates (DET) for AR Data to assess relationships between soil physical, chemical, and biological measures and AR. Subobjective 2C: Evaluate impact of fertilization and crop management strategy on AR in soils. Objective 3: Improve mathematical representation of hydrologic processes influencing nutrient transport by overland flow on land application areas to reduce uncertainty associated with relevant nutrient applications and nutrient dynamics and to inform and strengthen opportunities for better management strategies. Subobjective 3A: Quantify surface hydrologic processes influencing nutrient transport by surface runoff on cropland areas where beef and swine manure is applied. Subobjective 3B: Use previously derived relationships and existing data to identify when and where to apply manure to maximize the use of nutrients and minimize nutrient losses to the environment.

The use of animal manures in farming impacts plant, animal, and human health, providing both benefits and challenges. Nutrient-rich animal manures are a boon to crop production; building soil organic matter, replacing expensive chemical fertilizers and enhancing soil physical and chemical properties. However, manured agronomic soils also present biosecurity risks to both ecosystems and human health, via runoff or leaching of excess nutrients, the impacts of excreted antibiotics and other emerging agricultural contaminants on carbon and nitrogen cycling in the soil, and the potential transfer of biological agents such as zoonotic pathogens and antibiotic resistant microorganisms. The proposed research project will address a number of critical knowledge gaps by i) identifying sources of excess nutrients (e.g., ammonia deposition near cattle feedlots) and the fate of nitrogen leaching into shallow groundwaters; ii) quantifying impacts of conservation practices in reducing nutrient transport and identifying manure management practices that optimize water quality and ecosystem health; iii) developing assays to detect microbes that cause and protect against disease across a continuum of rural-suburban-urban agronomic systems, and methods to support antibiotic resistance risk-assessment efforts; and iv) identifying the effects of manure associated pharmaceuticals on soil and aquatic ecosystem processes (nitrification and denitrification). Quantifying the benefit from sustainable nutrient (re)utilization and its associated positive effects of agronomic impacts to the soils on ecosystem, animal, and human health is a primary goal of this research. Coupled to this, and fully integrated into the larger research enterprise, are the collateral aspects of improving biosecurity and reducing adverse impacts potentially arising from this sustainable nutrient (re)utilization. Both aspects are important individual priorities of this research, but we are seeking to fully integrate these efforts for a more holistic, systematic understanding – one that provides clear systems level solutions to these problems arising from a common resource.