Tracking phosphorus runoff from livestock manure

Jun 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 from soils receiving livestock manure. In addition to reducing the solubility of phosphorus, this method shows particular promise for researchers interested in tracking the fate of manure nutrients in agricultural settings.

Led by Anthony Buda, a team of scientists from the USDA Agricultural Research Service and the Chinese Academy of Sciences applied two rare earth chlorides (lanthanum chloride and ytterbium chloride) to poultry, dairy, and swine manures. The goals were to evaluate the effects of rare earth elements on solubility in manures and to describe the fate of phosphorus and rare earth elements in surface runoff when manures were surface-applied to packed boxes and subjected to simulated rainfall.

The study was reported in the May/June 2010 edition of the , published by the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America.

Common uses for rare earth elements include industry, technology, and agricultural production, but there is a growing trend for using them in environmental research, particularly to label and track soil erosion and sedimentation during storm events on agricultural and rangeland watersheds.

The results of the study showed that rare earth elements had a remarkable ability to reduce soluble phosphorus in livestock manures. In particular, adding lanthanum resulted in maximum reductions of water extractable phosphorus from dairy and poultry manures.

While these soluble phosphorus reductions were comparable to using other chemical treatments such as alum and lime, widespread use of rare earth elements in this manner would likely be cost prohibitive.

According to the authors of the study, the real potential benefit of rare earth elements lies in their ability to label phosphorus in livestock manures, a boon for researchers. Their rainfall simulation experiment clearly showed that rare earth elements precipitated greater than 50% of the dissolved phosphorus in runoff. The results revealed that rare earth elements can be used to track the fate of phosphorus and other manure constituents from soils treated with manures.

This study introduces as a potentially valuable new tool for research in agricultural phosphorus management. Extending this technique to field, landscape, and small watershed scales will contribute to testing and validating phosphorus management strategies, including critical source area management. Agriculture, particularly the dairy, poultry and swine industries, stand to benefit from improved nutrient containment of their manure-treated soils.

Explore further: When the isthmus is an island: Madison's hottest, and coldest, spots

More information: View the abstract at jeq.scijournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/39/3/1028

Provided by American Society of Agronomy

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Improving swine waste fertilizer

Jul 08, 2008

Swine production generates large amounts of waste. While this waste contains nutrients that may serve as fertilizer when applied to agricultural fields, the ratio of nutrients in the waste is different than what a crop requires.

Tracking poultry litter phosphorus: Threat of accumulation?

Jan 28, 2009

The Delmarva Peninsula, flanking the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, is home to some 600 million chickens. The resulting poultry manure and some of the chicken house bedding material is usually composted and then spread ...

Recycled garden compost reduces phosphorus in soils

Jun 01, 2007

Broccoli, eggplant, cabbage and capsicum grown with compost made from recycled garden offcuts have produced equivalent yields to those cultivated by conventional farm practice, but without the subsequent build up of phosphorus.

Calculating agriculture's phosphorus footprint

Apr 13, 2010

Balancing phosphorus levels in crop lands is a key factor that is often overlooked in discussions of global food security, according to a paper published in the International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance an ...

Recommended for you

Stopping the leaks

5 hours ago

When a big old cast-iron water main blows, it certainly makes for a spectacular media event.

Alpine lifelines on the brink

6 hours ago

Only one in ten Alpine rivers are healthy enough to maintain water supply and to cope with climate impacts according to a report by WWF. The publication is the first-ever comprehensive study on the condition ...

User comments : 0