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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Booneville, Arkansas » Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #383683

Research Project: Sustainable Small Farm and Organic Grass and Forage Production Systems for Livestock and Agroforestry

Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center

Title: Application of poultry litter and moisture effects on rye-ryegrass fescue baleage

item Nieman, Christine
item Coblentz, Wayne
item COFFEY, KENNETH - University Of Arkansas

Submitted to: Crop, Forage & Turfgrass Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/30/2021
Publication Date: 7/7/2021
Citation: Nieman, C.C., Coblentz, W.K., Coffey, K.P. 2021. Application of poultry litter and moisture effects on rye-ryegrass fescue baleage. Crop, Forage & Turfgrass Management. e20118.

Interpretive Summary: Poultry litter is a common fertilizer for pasture and forage production systems in the southeastern US. However, the practice of surface-spreading or broadcasting poultry litter allows nutrient loss during and after application. For example, nitrogen is lost through ammonia volatilization, and other nutrients are lost after heavy rainfall via surface runoff. To minimize these environmental impacts, poultry litter can be incorporated into the soil or injected below the soil surface. Poultry litter application, particularly subsurface applied poultry litter, has been observed to increase crude protein concentrations of crops, however, nitrogen application has also been observed to reduce plant sugar concentration, important fuel for organic acid production in baleage. Microbial populations that produce organic acids require moisture to carry out fermentation; greater dry matter concentrations result in a higher (less acidic) pH, lower organic acids, and require more time to reach anaerobic stability. Therefore, both poultry litter application method and bale moisture are important for producing quality baled silage. Though, the effects of litter amendment methods, subsurface, and high versus low moisture levels on baled silages have yet to be determined. Poultry litter application with subsurface technology did not greatly improve forage nutritive value or fermentation parameters compared to bales from plots with surface applied poultry litter. However, many differences existed between control and litter-amended plots, including greater mineral concentrations and lower fiber in amended plots. Bale moisture greatly influenced fermentation parameters with increased acid production associated with increased moisture, but there were no interactions between litter amendment strategies and bale moisture.

Technical Abstract: Subsurface poultry litter application improves nutrient utilization compared to surface application through reduced nutrient run off, and increased forage nutritive value. This study compared the effects of subsurface (SUB) or surface (SURF) poultry litter application against controls (CON; no litter) for baled silages made at high (HM) or low (LM) moisture at Booneville, AR USA in 2018. Mixtures of cereal rye (Secale cereale L.), annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.), and tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinaceus (Schreb.) Dumort., nom. cons.) baled silages were compared for nutritive value and silage fermentation characteristics. Data were analyzed as a split-plot design with 3 fertilizer treatments as whole plots, and initial bale moisture as subplots. Pre-ensiled P and K were greater (P < 0.05) for the mean of SURF and SUB compared to CON. Neutral detergent fiber was greater (P = 0.02) in CON versus the mean of SURF and SUB. In post-ensiled bales, propionic (P < 0.05) and succinic acid (P < 0.05) concentrations were greater in the mean of SURF and SUB compared to CON, and greater in SUB compared to SURF. Moisture had positive (P < 0.05) relationships with fermentation acids, and negative relationships with pH, water soluble carbohydrates, and starch. Overall, very few differences between SUB and SURF were detected, baleage nutritive value was not improved with SUB poultry litter application, and fermentation characteristics were most affected by initial bale moisture.