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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Livestock Nutrient Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #336262

Research Project: Improved Practices to Conserve Air Quality, Maintain Animal Productivity, and Enhance Use of Manure and Soil Nutrients of Cattle Production Systems for the Southern Great Plains

Location: Livestock Nutrient Management Research

Title: Corn yield and soil fertility with combined use of raw or composted beef manure and inorganic fertilizers on the texas northern high plains

item Parker, David
item VENHAUS, DAVE - Cactus Feeders, Inc
item ROBINSON, CLAY - Texas Agrilife Research
item MAREK, THOMAS - Texas Agrilife Research
item SWEETEN, JOHN - Texas Agrilife Research

Submitted to: Compost Science and Utilization
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/8/2017
Publication Date: 1/1/2018
Citation: Parker, D.B., Venhaus, D., Robinson, C., Marek, T., Sweeten, J. 2018. Corn yield and soil fertility with combined use of raw or composted beef manure and inorganic fertilizers on the texas northern high plains. Compost Science and Utilization. doi:10.1080/1065657X.2017.1366376.

Interpretive Summary: Most soils contain insufficient nutrient to sustain maximum crop production, but land application of raw beef manure and compost increase soil nutrient. There are 860,000 acres of corn harvested every year in the Texas Northern High Plains, and the region also produces 17 million tons of beef cattle manure annually. Because of the high cost of transporting manure, feedyard operators and farmers have become interested in the benefits of aerobic composting. Scientists from USDA-ARS (Bushland, Texas), Texas A & M AgriLife Research (Amarillo, Texas), and Illinois State University (Normal, Illinois) conducted a two-year field study to compare raw manure, composted manure, and commercial fertilizers when applied to field corn. Corn yields were similar for all three fertilizer treatments and the plots receiving composted manure had 10 to 14 percent higher soil organic matter content. Land application of composted manure provides long-term benefits to soil health and sustainability in the region.

Technical Abstract: Corn is the biggest crop in the semiarid Texas Northern High Plains, with 350,000 ha harvested annually. About 7.1 million beef cattle are also raised annually in the region, producing more than 16 Mg of manure. Manure is typically removed directly from the open lot pens and land applied as raw manure, but because of high transportation costs there has been an interest in the benefits of aerobic composting. A study was conducted over two growing seasons in Moore County, Texas to evaluate and compare the effects of composted manure, raw manure, and inorganic fertilizers on corn yield and soil fertility. The four treatments consisted of low-rate compost (1X annual P requirement + inorganic N), high-rate compost (2X P requirement + inorganic N), raw manure (2X P requirement + inorganic N), and inorganic fertilizer (1X annual P & N requirements). All treatments received equal plant available N (269 kg/ha). Corn yields were measured using hand picked and total plot methods, and soil fertility parameters were monitored initially and at the end of both growing seasons. Mean corn yields were similar among treatments for both years. Yields were considerably lower in Yr 2 for all treatments, a result of drought conditions. Compost treatments had 10.2 to 13.7 percent higher soil organic matter (SOM) after two seasons, with minimal SOM change for the raw and inorganic fertilizer treatments. Compost and raw manure treatments had higher soil nitrate, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc concentrations after two seasons of application, with minimal differences observed for soil electrical conductivity and pH. This research has demonstrated that both raw and composted manure are beneficial for corn production and improving soil fertility in the Texas North Plains, but compost was superior to raw manure in terms of increasing SOM.