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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #377120

Research Project: Sustainable Intensification of Crop and Integrated Crop-Livestock Systems at Multiple Scales

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: An environmental assessment of cattle manure and urea fertilizer treatments for corn production in the northern great plains

item Rotz, Clarence - Al
item ASEM-HIABLIE, SENORPE - Consultant
item CORTUS, ERIN - University Of Minnesota
item RAHMAN, SHAFIQUR - North Dakota State University
item SPIEHS, MINDY - Consultant
item RAHMAN, SHAFIQUR - North Dakota State University
item STONER, ANNE - Texas Tech University

Submitted to: Transactions of the ASABE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/20/2021
Publication Date: 7/7/2021
Citation: Rotz, C.A., Asem-Hiablie, S., Cortus, E., Rahman, S., Spiehs, M., Rahman, S., Stoner, A. 2021. An environmental assessment of cattle manure and urea fertilizer treatments for corn production in the northern great plains. Transactions of the ASABE. 64(4):1185-1196.

Interpretive Summary: Beef cattle production is a major agricultural industry in the Northern Great Plains of the U.S. Most of the cattle are finished on open feedlots, but various types of enclosed housing or barns are also used which provide better control over manure handling and nutrient losses to the environment. To improve the environmental sustainability of cattle production, nutrient losses must be reduced to recycle more nutrients through feed production. A production system model was used to study nutrient cycling in cattle feeding operations in this region and to compare the production and environmental impacts of using cattle manure or inorganic fertilization practices in corn production under recent and projected mid-century climate. Compared to use of feedlot manure, bedded pack manure from barns reduced nutrient losses from the housing facility but increased nutrient losses from the cornfield. Compared to sole use of inorganic fertilizers, use of cattle manure increased ammonia emission and phosphorous runoff while reducing life-cycle energy use and greenhouse gas emission. Differences in production and environmental impacts among manure and fertilizer treatments were similar under future climate as that obtained under recent climate supporting the need for systems that improve manure nutrient use and reduce adverse effects on the environment.

Technical Abstract: Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and carbon (C) emissions from livestock systems have become important national and international concerns. Our objective was to use process level simulation to explore long-term differences among manure and fertilization treatments on corn produced to feed finishing cattle in the Northern Plains region of the United States. Our analysis included model verification, simulation to compare treatments under recent climate and comparisons using projected mid-century climate. The Integrated Farm System Model was evaluated in representing the performance and nutrient losses of corn production using cattle manure without bedding, manure with bedding, urea and no fertilization treatments. Two-year field experiments conducted near Clay Center, NE; Brookings, SD; and Fargo, ND provided observed emission data following these treatments. Simulated daily emissions from field-applied manure or urea fertilizer were not highly correlated to observed values, but the model appropriately represented annual emissions of methane, ammonia and nitrous oxide. Simulation of corn production systems over 25 years of recent climate showed greater ammonia emission and soluble P runoff with use of feedlot and bedded manure compared to use of inorganic fertilizers, but life-cycle fossil energy use and greenhouse gas emission were decreased. Compared to feedlot manure, application of bedded pack manure generally increased N and P losses in corn production by retaining more N in manure removed from the housing facility and through increased runoff because a large portion of the stover was removed from the cornfield for use as bedding material. Simulation of these treatments using projected mid-century climate produced a small increase in simulated feed production in the Dakotas and a small decrease for irrigated corn in Nebraska. Climate differences affected the three production systems similarly, so production and environmental impact differences among the fertilization systems under future climate were similar to those obtained under recent climate.