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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Special Submissions: Novel Manure Management Techniques in No-Till and Forage Systems

Subsurface Application of Manures Slurries for Conservation Tillage and Pasture Soils and Their Impact on the Nitrogen Balance


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 40 No. 2, p. 352-361
    Received: Feb 16, 2010

    * Corresponding author(s): curtis.dell@ars.usda.gov
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  1. Curtis J. Dell *a,
  2. John J. Meisingerb and
  3. Douglas B. Beeglec
  1. a USDA–ARS, Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, University Park, PA
    b USDA–ARS, Environmental Management and By-Products Utilization Lab., Beltsville, MD
    c Crop and Soil Sciences Dep., Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park, PA. Assigned to Associate Editor Phil Haygarth


Injection of cattle and swine slurries can provide soil incorporation in no-till and perennial forage production. Injection is expected to substantially reduce N loss due to ammonia (NH3) volatilization, but a portion of that N conservation may be offset by greater denitrification and leaching losses. This paper reviews our current knowledge of the impacts of subsurface application of cattle and swine slurries on the N balance and outlines areas where a greater understanding is needed. Several publications have shown that liquid manure injection using disk openers, chisels, or tines can be expected to reduce NH3 emissions by at least 40%, and often by 90% or more, relative to broadcast application. However, the limited number of studies that have also measured denitrification losses have shown that increased denitrification with subsurface application can offset as much as half of the N conserved by reducing NH3 emissions. Because the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O) is one product of denitrification, the possible increases in N2O emission with injection require further consideration. Subsurface manure application generally does not appear to increase leaching potential when manure is applied at recommended rates. Plant utilization of conserved N was shown in only a portion of the published studies, indicating that further work is needed to better synchronize manure N availability and crop uptake. At this time in the United States, the economic and environmental benefits from reducing losses of N as NH3 are expected to outweigh potential liability from increases in denitrification with subsurface manure application. To fully evaluate the trade-offs among manure application methods, a detailed environmental and agricultural economic assessment is needed to estimate the true costs of potential increases in N2O emissions with manure injection.

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