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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Soil, Water & Air Resources Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #365974

Research Project: Managing Energy and Carbon Fluxes to Optimize Agroecosystem Productivity and Resilience

Location: Soil, Water & Air Resources Research

Title: Nutrient source and tillage effects on maize: II. Yield, soil carbon and carbon dioxide emissions

item O'DELL, DEB - University Of Tennessee
item EASH, NEAL - University Of Tennessee
item ZAHN, JAMES - Dupont Tate & Lyle Bio Products Company
item HICKS, BRUCE - Metcorps
item OETTING, JOEL - University Of Tennessee
item Sauer, Thomas
item LAMBERT, DAYTON - University Of Tennessee
item LOGAN, JOANNE - University Of Tennessee
item GODDARD, JOHN - University Of Tennessee

Submitted to: Agrosystems, Geosciences & Environment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/12/2019
Publication Date: 10/24/2019
Citation: O'Dell, D., Eash, N.S., Zahn, J.A., Hicks, B.B., Oetting, J.N., Sauer, T.J., Lambert, D.M., Logan, J., Goddard, J. 2019. Nutrient source and tillage effects on maize: II. Yield, soil carbon and carbon dioxide emissions. Agrosystems, Geosciences & Environment. 2(1):1-8.

Interpretive Summary: There is increasing interest in recycling organic byproducts for agricultural uses. In this study a fermentation waste product that had been put in a landfill was applied to a corn field in Tennessee to serve as a source of nutrients and to increase the soil organic matter content. Corn yield and carbon dioxide emissions were compared to a field with standard practices. The field with byproduct application had a higher yield that was attributed to the amount of nutrients it contained. Byproduct application also resulted in greater CO2 exchange with the atmosphere, which was partially offset by the greater crop growth. Further study over more growing seasons with improved application techniques is required. This research is of interest to growers and scientists interested in enhancing the recycling of nutrients and organic matter contained in waste materials.

Technical Abstract: Reuse of industrial biotechnology by-products has become an important component of circular bio-economies whereby nutrient-rich wastes are returned to agricultural land to improve soil fertility and crop productivity. Heat-inactivated spent microbial biomass (SMB) from the production of 1,3-propanediol is an industrial fermentation by-product with nutrients that could replace conventional fertilizers. Our objectives were to determine if SMB utilization as a soil amendment in agriculture could generate environmental benefits, while meeting farmer yield expectations, and assess the impact of SMB application on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. This study examined the replacement of typical farmer fertilizer practices with the application of SMB. In addition to yellow dent corn (Zea mays var. indentata) grain yield and above-ground biomass, soil organic carbon (SOC) was measured. The eddy covariance (EC) micrometeorological method was used to measure CO2 flux. Overall maize yields were positively correlated with increasing application rates of SMB. After two SMB applications, SOC increased by 45% on the SMB plot as compared to an increase of 11% on the farmer practice plot. The SMB treated plot also emitted more CO2 (794 g CO2 m-2 yr-1) compared to the farmer practice treatment (274 g CO2 m-2 yr-1). Results from this study provide information about the efficacy of waste product nutrient cycling in the soil/plant ecosystem for improving productivity and sustainability.