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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Soil Dynamics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #340688

Research Project: Enhancing Production and Ecosystem Services of Horticultural and Agricultural Systems in the Southeastern United States

Location: Soil Dynamics Research

Title: Poultry litter placement effects on seedling emergence and early growth stage of corn

item LIN, YARU - Auburn University
item Watts, Dexter
item Way, Thomas - Tom

Submitted to: European Agrophysical Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/14/2017
Publication Date: 12/30/2017
Publication URL:
Citation: Lin, Y., Watts, D.B., Way, T.R. 2017. Poultry litter placement effects on seedling emergence and early growth stage of corn. European Agrophysical Journal. 4(4):81-99.

Interpretive Summary: Poultry litter (PL) has historically been applied to the soil surface for forage and crop production. This practice can leave the Phosphorus (P) in the PL susceptible to loss with surface water runoff, which may lead to water quality degradation. Recently, new technology for applying PL in bands below the soil surface has been developed to minimize the susceptibility of P loss in runoff water, from the litter. It is unclear if planting corn in or near the PL bands will negatively or positively influence seed germination and seedling growth. Information is needed for recommending the lateral distance required to minimize seedling damage when subsurface banding. Placing corn seeds 5 cm to the side of subsurface PL bands resulted in seed germination rates and early stage plant growth similar to that of surface-applied PL (standard practice). In contrast, seeding directly into subsurface PL bands dramatically reduced corn seed germination and inhibited early stage plant growth and root system establishment. Based on these results, planting corn seeds 5 cm to the side of subsurface PL bands is recommended.

Technical Abstract: Poultry litter (PL) is generally broadcasted on the soil surface, a practice that exposes the litter’s N to volatilization and its P to loss with surface water runoff, potentially negatively impacting the environment. Placing PL in narrow bands below the soil surface has been shown to reduce such losses and improve crop yield, but the influence of band placement on seed emergence and plant growth is not well understood. Thus, a glasshouse container study was conducted using a Marvyn loamy sand (fine-loamy, kaolinitic, themic Typic Kanhapludult) to determine the effects of PL placement on emergence and early stage growth of corn (Zea mays L.). Poultry litter was applied at 168 kg total N ha-1. Treatments consisted of surface broadcasting (B), subsurface banding 5 cm below (A) or to the side of seed (S), seeding directly in bands (I), and an unfertilized control. PL-S produced similar emergence to the control and PL-B at one of two locations, while PL-I was significantly lower at both locations. The PL-S resulted in significantly taller plants, more biomass, greater leaf area, and greener leaves than the control at one location and no differences at the second location (both locations PL-S = PL-B). PL-S also resulted in similar root morphological growth parameters to the PL-B and control. Therefore, banding PL at least 5 cm to the side of seeds may be an effective management strategy for corn production, but placing seeds in direct contact with PL bands may inhibit emergence and negatively influence early growth.