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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Waste Management

Water-Quality Effects of Incorporating Poultry Litter into Perennial Grassland Soils


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 32 No. 6, p. 2392-2398
    Received: Aug 11, 2002

    * Corresponding author(s): dpote@spa.ars.usda.gov
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  1. D. H. Pote *a,
  2. W. L. Kingeryb,
  3. G. E. Aikena,
  4. F. X. Hanb,
  5. P. A. Moored and
  6. K. Buddingtonc
  1. a USDA Agricultural Research Service, Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center, 6883 South State Highway 23, Booneville, AR 72927
    b Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, P.O. Box 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762
    d USDA Agricultural Research Service, PPPSRU, 0-303 POSC, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701
    c Department of Biological Sciences, P.O. Box GY, Mississippi State, MS 39762


Poultry litter provides a rich source of nutrients for perennial forages, but the usual practice of surface-applying litter to pastures can degrade water quality by allowing nutrients to be transported from fields in surface runoff, while much of the NH4–N volatilizes. Incorporating litter into the soil can minimize such problems in tilled systems, but has not been used for perennial forage systems. In this study, we minimized disturbance of the crop, thatch, and soil structure by using a knifing technique to move litter into the root zone. Our objective was to determine effects of poultry litter incorporation on quantity and quality of runoff water. Field plots were constructed on a silt loam soil with well-established bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.] and mixed grass forage. Each plot had 8 to 10% slopes, borders to isolate runoff, and a downslope trough with sampling pit. Poultry litter was applied (5.6 Mg ha−1) by one of three methods: surface-applied, incorporated, or surface-applied on soil-aeration cuts. There were six treatment replications and three controls (no litter). Nutrient concentrations and mass losses in runoff from incorporated litter were significantly lower (generally 80–95% less) than in runoff from surface-applied litter. By the second year of treatment, litter-incorporated soils had greater rain infiltration rates, water-holding capacities, and sediment retention than soils receiving surface-applied litter. Litter incorporation also showed a strong tendency to increase forage yield.

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Copyright © 2003. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyASA, CSSA, SSSA