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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Nitrate Leaching from Cattle Urine and Feces in Northeast USA


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 61 No. 6, p. 1787-1794
    Received: Aug 26, 1996

    * Corresponding author(s):
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  1. W. L. Stout ,
  2. R. R. Schnabel,
  3. W. E. Priddy,
  4. G. F. Elwinger,
  5. S. A. Fales and
  6. L. D. Muller
  1. USDA-ARS Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Lab., Curtin Road, University Park, PA 16802-3702
    115 AS&I Building
    316 Henning Building, Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park, PA 16802



Management intensive grazing (MIG) is a grazing system in which animals at a high stocking density are rotated frequently through a series of paddocks in a manner that maximizes both forage yield and quality. Although MIG has the potential to increase dairy farm profitability in the U.S. Northeast, the uneven recycling of N through feces and urine can increase NO3-N leaching. The extent to which NO3-N can leach from beneath urine and fecal spots under soil and climatic conditions of the Northeast is not known. We conducted a field study to measure NO3-N leaching loss from spring-, summer-, and fall-applied urine and summer-applied fecal beneath N-fertilized orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L., cv. Pennlate) using 60-cm-diameter by 90-cm-deep drainage lysimeters. The study site was located in central Pennsylvania on a Hagerstown silt loam soil (fine, mixed, mesic Typic Hapludalf). Averaged across the 3 yr of the study, NO3-N losses were 1.17, 1.68, 22.0, 24.0, and 31.5 g m-2 for the control, feces, and spring-, summer-, and fall-applied urine, respectively. These losses represent about 2% of the N applied in the feces and about 18, 28, and 31% of the spring-, summer-, and fall-applied urine N. If dairy farmers in the Northeast continue to increase the utilization of MIG, the amount of N leached to the groundwater from beneath pastures could become substantial if not mitigated by improved grazing management.

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