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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract - DIVISION S-6-SOIL & WATER MANAGEMENT & CONSERVATION

Potential of Earthworm Burrows to Transmit Injected Animal Wastes to Tile Drains


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 64 No. 6, p. 2103-2109
    Received: Nov 29, 1999

    * Corresponding author(s): shipitalo.1@osu.edu
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  1. Martin J. Shipitalo *a and
  2. Frank Gibbsb
  1. a USDA-ARS, North Appalachian Experimental Watershed, P.O. Box 488, Coshocton, OH 43812-0488 USA
    b Usda-Nrcs, Findlay, OH 45840 USA


Subsurface injection of animal manure is a best management practice (BMP) that reduces odors and promotes efficient nutrient usage. In tile-drained fields, however, injected wastes have been observed emerging from tile outlets shortly after application. This appears to be a particular concern in no-till fields where Lumbricus terrestris L. are often numerous. Our objective was to determine if burrows created by this earthworm species can contribute to rapid movement of injected wastes to tile drains. A turbine blower was used to force smoke into a 0.6 m-deep tile line in a no-till field and 20 burrows 0.02 to 0.5 m from the tile that emitted smoke, and 18 burrows 0.8 to 4.7 m from the tile that did not produce smoke were flagged. A Mariotte device filled with dyed water was then used to measure infiltration rate for each burrow. Afterwards, plastic replicas of the burrows were made so their proximity to the tile and geometrical properties could be determined. Average infiltration rate for smoke-emitting burrows (128 mL min−1) was twice that of the more distant burrows. Moreover, dyed water was observed in the tile when added to smoke-emitting burrows, but not when added to burrows that did not produce smoke. Thus, earthworm burrows in close proximity to tile lines may expedite transmission of injected wastes offsite. Movement of injected wastes to tiles via earthworm burrows and other preferential flow paths may be reduced by using precision farming to avoid waste application near tile lines or by modifying application procedures.

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