User-friendly program updates phosphorus management

April 19, 2013 by Ann Perry

A more comprehensive and consistent system for modeling phosphorus loss is now available, thanks to work by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

This research, led by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist Peter Vadas, supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.

The Phosphorus Index was originally a simple management tool developed to gauge the risk of phosphorus losses from . The original index has since been modified by individual states to incorporate local variations in soils, climate, management, and water quality goals. This resulted in widely different state-by-state phosphorus indices that were sometimes defined more by than by watersheds or other regional variations.

To reduce these state-by-state discrepancies, Vadas and colleagues developed the Annual Phosphorus Loss Estimator (APLE), a user-friendly spreadsheet program that predicts field-scale phosphorus loss in runoff for a whole year. The revamped program can also be used in many different states to quantify field-scale phosphorus loss and soil phosphorus changes over 10 years for a given set of runoff, erosion, and management conditions.

The team showed that APLE could reliably quantify phosphorus losses in runoff for many different situations and could produce more reliable estimates than some existing phosphorus indexes. Vadas also has been adapting APLE to simulate phosphorus loss from pastures grazed by beef and , and from barnyards and exercise lots on cattle farms.

With these improvements, APLE can be used to develop whole-farm estimates of losses and the most effective strategies for reducing from cattle farms. These practices could include barnyard improvements for capturing discharge, soil conservation practices that reduce erosion, or manure application practices that reduce exposure to .

APLE is free to download here, with supporting technical documentation and a user's manual.

Explore further: Tracking phosphorus runoff from livestock manure

More information: Read more about this work in the April 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Related Stories

Tracking phosphorus runoff from livestock manure

June 14, 2010

Nutrient runoff from livestock manure is a common source of agricultural pollution. Looking for an uncommon solution, a team of scientists has developed an application of rare earth elements to control and track runoff phosphorus ...

Grazing management effects on stream pollutants

July 21, 2011

Surface water quality is important for the proper function of aquatic ecosystems, as well as human needs and recreation. Pasturelands have been found to be major sources of sediment, phosphorus and pathogens in Midwest surface ...

Urban impacts on phosphorus in streams

August 11, 2011

Although phosphorus is an essential nutrient for all life forms, essential amounts of the chemical element can cause water quality problems in rivers, lakes, and coastal zones. High concentrations of phosphorus in aquatic ...

The lifetime journeys of manure-based microbes

February 22, 2013

Studies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are shedding some light on the microbes that dwell in cattle manure—what they are, where they thrive, where they struggle, and where they can end up.

Manure spills: Detailing the damage, finding a fix

March 11, 2013

A manure spill that reaches a nearby creek or river can create a serious environmental hazard because it significantly boosts phosphorus loads in the water. Now scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and ...

Recommended for you

How wind sculpted Earth's largest dust deposit

September 1, 2015

China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years, according to a new report from University of Arizona geoscientists.

Climate ups odds of 'grey swan' superstorms

August 31, 2015

Climate change will boost the odds up to 14-fold for extremely rare, hard-to-predict tropical cyclones for parts of Australia, the United States and Dubai by 2100, researchers said Monday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.