Nutrient and Bacterial Transport From Agricultural Lands Fertlized With Different Animal Manures

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Virginia Tech


The increase of animal agriculture coupled with excess manure production, and the reduced availability of land has led to the over application of animal manure on agricultural fields. The excessive application of manure is responsible for nutrient and bacterial pollution of downstream waterbodies. Manure application based on the crop phosphorus (P) requirements has been recommended as a viable method to reduce nutrient pollution. A plot scale study was conducted to measure the loss of nutrients and bacterial transport in runoff from cropland treated with poultry litter, dairy manure and inorganic fertilizer according to the P requirements of the crop.

Three simulated rainfall events were conducted 1, 2 and 35 days after planting of corn. Highest P and N concentrations were observed in the runoff from plots treated with poultry litter, followed by dairy manure and inorganic fertilizer. The poultry litter treated plots exhibited highest concentrations of bioavailable P in the runoff, compared to all other treatments. The P from poultry litter treated plots was also mostly in the soluble form, which underscores the need to control the runoff from cropland in order to decrease the P losses from the poultry litter treated fields. The edge of the field nutrient concentrations observed in this study were high enough to cause severe to moderate eutrophication problems in downstream waterbodies unless they are diluted. In general, nutrient concentrations were lower during the second simulated event, compared with those from the first event. A significant reduction in the nutrient concentrations of runoff was observed from the second to the third simulated event for all the treatments. This reduction was attributed to the loss of nutrients by natural rainfall-runoff events during the time period between the second and the third simulated rainfall event, plant uptake of nutrients, sorption and leaching processes.

The indicator bacteria analyzed in the present study were fecal Coliform (FC), Escherichia Coli (E.Coli) and Enterococcus (ENT). The bacterial concentrations reported in the runoff for the first and second simulated events were 104 to 105 times higher than the federal and state limits for primary contact recreation waters. No significant effect of treatments was observed on the bacterial concentrations in runoff. The highest concentrations were observed for FC, followed by ENT and EC in the runoff. The ratio of bacteria removed in runoff to the bacteria applied also followed the above trend. The concentrations of bacteria generally increased from the first to second simulated event; unlike the nutrients. However, the bacterial concentrations dropped significantly from second to the third simulated rainfall event to the levels lower than those designated for primary contact recreation water limits. This reduction was attributed to the washing away of bacteria by the heavy rainfall-runoff events in the period between second and third simulated rainfall events and the die-off of bacteria.

The results reported from this study suggest that the manure application based on crop P requirements can also be a significant source of nutrient pollution and should be coupled with other best management practices (BMPs) also to reduce nutrient pollution. The results also suggest that the manure treated cropland can be a source for significant indicator bacterial pollution and appropriate BMPs are required to mitigate their effect.



rainfall simulator, enterococcus, nutrients, Phosphorus, Nitrogen, indicator bacteria, fecal coliform, escherichia coli