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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Surface Water Quality

Effect of Varying the Phosphorus Content of Dairy Cow Diets on Losses of Phosphorus in Overland Flow Following Surface Applications of Manure


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 39 No. 6, p. 2138-2146
    Received: May 01, 2010

    * Corresponding author(s): sharon.orourke@ucd.ie
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  1. S. M. O'Rourke *a,
  2. R. H. Foyb,
  3. C. J. Watsonb,
  4. C. P. Ferrisc and
  5. A. Gordonb
  1. a School of Biological Sciences, Queen's Univ. Belfast; current address: School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, Univ. College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland
    b Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Belfast BT9 5PX, Antrim, Northern Ireland
    c Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Hillsborough BT26 6DR, Down, Northern Ireland. Assigned to Associate Editor Katherine Knowlton


The increasing use of concentrate feedstuffs within Northern Ireland dairy systems has resulted in significant farm gate phosphorus (P) surpluses, and these have contributed to increased soil P levels and risk of P loss to overland flow. However, the P content of feed concentrates can be lowered without compromising animal performance. This study focuses on P losses from grassland and evaluates how adjusting the P content of manure impacts on the P composition and concentration in overland flow. Dairy cows were offered diets containing 5.3 to 3.0 g P kg−1 dry matter (DM) and produced manures with a range of P contents. Manure was applied at a rate of 50 m3 ha−1 to 0.5-m2 grassland plots, and simulated rainfall (40 mm h−1) was applied repeatedly 2, 9, 28, and 49 d after during the summer, winter, and spring. Decreasing the P content in the diet, from the highest to the lowest P treatment (43%), produced a proportionately greater reduction in manure TP content (63%), but reductions were not exclusively in the water-soluble fraction. Following surface applications of manure, P concentrations in overland flow increased in all seasons (P ≤ 0.001), while the greatest impact of varying the manure P content was most evident during the first simulated overland flow event. When diet P content was reduced from 5.4 to 3.0 g P kg−1 DM, a statistically significant reduction in runoff P concentration was observed in all seasons. Elevated P concentrations in overland flow were observed for 28 d in spring and 9 d in summer and winter. The large drop in P concentrations between simulated rainfall events on Day 2 and Day 9 suggests that increasing the time interval between manure application and the generation of overland flow has a greater impact on P losses than does varying the dietary P content.

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Copyright © 2010. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyAmerican Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America