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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #368308

Research Project: Science and Technologies for the Sustainable Management of Western Rangeland Systems

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Manuresheds: Advancing nutrient recycling in US agriculture

item Spiegal, Sheri
item Kleinman, Peter
item Endale, Dinku
item Bryant, Ray
item Dell, Curtis
item Goslee, Sarah
item MEINEN, ROBERT - Pennsylvania State University
item Flynn, Kyle
item Baker, John
item Browning, Dawn
item McCarty, Gregory
item BITTMAN, SHABTAI - Agriculture And Agri-Food Canada
item Carter, Jennifer
item Cavigelli, Michel
item Duncan, Emily
item Gowda, Prasanna
item LI, XIA - Non ARS Employee
item PONCE, GUILLERMO - University Of Arizona
item RAJ, CIBIN - Pennsylvania State University
item SILVEIRA, MARIA - University Of Florida
item Smith, Douglas
item Arthur, Dan
item YANG, QICHUN - University Of Melbourne

Submitted to: Agricultural Systems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/4/2020
Publication Date: 5/6/2020
Publication URL:
Citation: Spiegal, S.A., Kleinman, P.J., Endale, D.M., Bryant, R.B., Dell, C.J., Goslee, S.C., Meinen, R.J., Flynn, K.C., Baker, J.M., Browning, D.M., McCarty, G.W., Bittman, S., Carter, J.D., Cavigelli, M.A., Duncan, E.W., Gowda, P.H., Li, X., Ponce, G., Raj, C., Silveira, M., Smith, D.R., Arthur, D.K., Yang, Q. 2020. Manuresheds: Advancing nutrient recycling in US agriculture. Agricultural Systems. 182:102813.

Interpretive Summary: Managing manures is one of the most difficult subjects in modern agriculture, touching upon issues of resource management, human and environmental health, and crop production. USDA’s LTAR Network is using the concept of a "manureshed” to develop a vision for reintegrating the nation’s livestock and crop production systems. By optimizing the distribution of livestock manure to croplands and pasturelands in need of nutrients, this research demonstrates the potential for improved manure use to improve the sustainability of crop and livestock production well into the future.

Technical Abstract: Nutrient recycling is fundamental to sustainable agricultural systems, but few mechanisms exist to ensure that surplus manure nutrients from confined animal feeding operations are transported for use in nutrient-deficient croplands. As a result, surplus manure nutrients concentrate in locations where they can threaten environmental health and devalue manure as a fertilizer resource. This study advances the concept of the “manureshed” – the lands surrounding animal production operations where manure nutrients can be redistributed to meet environmental, production and economic goals. Manuresheds can be managed at multiple scales, for example, on farms with both animals and crops where manure is applied to the farm’'s croplands, among animal farms and crop farms within a county, or even among animal and crop farms in neighboring or distant counties. With a focus on redistribution among counties, we classified the 3109 counties of the contiguous United States by their capacity to either supply manure phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) from confined livestock production (“sources”) or to assimilate and remove excess P and N via crops (“sinks”). Manure nutrient source counties were identified in 40 of the 48 states, with a substantial concentration in southern states. Source counties of manure P greatly outnumbered source counties of manure N (390 vs. 100), and all but one manure N source counties were also manure P source counties. Conversely, sink counties for manure N (2766 counties) outnumbered sink counties for manure P (2317 counties). We used the P balances of the source and sink counties to delineate four manuresheds with source areas dominated by various combinations of confined hog, poultry, dairy, and beef industries. The four manuresheds differed in the transport distances needed to assimilate excess manure P from their respective source areas (from 147 ± 51 km for a beef dominated manureshed to 368 ± 140 km for a poultry dominated manureshed), highlighting the need for systems-level strategies to promote manure nutrient recycling that operate across local, county, regional and national scales.