Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/14/2020
Publication Date: 4/7/2020
Citation: Ashworth, A.J., Pote, D.H., Way, T.R., Watts, D.B. 2020. Effect of seeding distance from subsurface banded poultry litter on corn yield and leaf greenness. Agronomy Journal. 112:1679-1689. https://doi.org/10.1002/agj2.20186.
Interpretive Summary: Poultry production in the southeastern US is a leading enterprise, as about half of the national broiler (meat chicken) production occurs in four southeastern states (i.e., Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and North Carolina). Furthermore, use of by-products from poultry production, or the mixture of manure and bedding material, has the potential to close nutrient loops, as animal by-products are re-applied the following season to marginal soils. Although, conventional application methods entail evenly spreading poultry litter on the soil surface, which can result in up to 60% of the nutrients being lost to the air, soil, and water. In efforts to improve management options that aid in nutrient sustainability and improve crop yield, a research team at USDA's Agricultural Research Service developed a prototype tractor-drawn implement for subsurface applications of dry poultry litter in conservation tillage systems. A study was conducted at three sites in AR and AL to evaluate optimum corn planting distances from sub-surface applied poultry litter for maximizing nutrient uptake and reduction of nutrient losses under rainfed and irrigated conditions. Overall, yield and crop quality results suggest sub-surface banding poultry litter 13-cm from corn rows may be a viable replacement for inorganic fertilizers in fodder and grain systems, particularly in organic production systems.
Technical Abstract: Poultry litter is a nutrient-rich soil amendment and is generated in large quantities throughout the southeastern USA where row crop production, such as corn (Zea Mays L.) occurs. However, extensive surface poultry litter applications have resulted in nutrient losses to atmosphere and water systems. Research objectives were to determine optimum corn planting distance from subsurface-applied poultry litter bands for maximizing plant nitrogen (N) uptake and productivity under rainfed and irrigated conditions in a conservation tillage system. This experiment was conducted as a split-block at two locations in AL and one in AR during 2016. Irrigation was the whole block and soil amendments the split-block, which included planting corn nominally 13, 25, and 38-cm to the side of subsurface banded poultry litter, surface-applied poultry litter, inorganic-N (all received equivalent N; 168 kg ha-1), and 0 kg N ha-1 (control). Chlorophyll readings indicated inorganic fertilizers and the 25-cm resulted in greatest leaf greenness (P=0.05), which was not different from the 13-cm litter band distance. Banding distance had no impact on rainfed silage yields; however, yields were not different from inorganic fertilizer applications (P=0.05). The 13-cm band distance resulted in the greatest grain yield, which was not different from the inorganic-N treatment. Grain neutral detergent fiber, crude fiber, and P and K fractions were all favorable for the 13-cm band distance treatment. Yield and quality results suggest subsurface banding poultry litter 13-cm from corn rows may be a viable replacement for inorganic fertilizers in fodder and grain systems, particularly in organic production systems.