Precision Manure Management on Site-Specific Management Zones: Topsoil Quality and Environmental Impact
Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis
Tshwane University of Technology, Crop Science, Pretoria, South Africa; Colorado State University, Soil and Crop Science, Fort Collins, CO, United States
Maintenance and improvement of soil quality across spatially variable soils in continuous cropping systems are critical to sustaining agricultural productivity and environmental quality. The objectives of this project were (i) to study the effects of variable-rate application of animal manure on selected topsoil quality parameters across site-specific management zones (MZs) and (ii) to evaluate the variable-rate applications of manure using risk-assessment tools of nitrogen (N) leaching and phosphorus (P) runoff indices to understand its impact on environmental quality. This study was conducted in northeastern Colorado on continuous and furrow-irrigated maize fields. Experimental strips, 4.5 m wide and 540 m long, spanned across all MZs with treatments nested within MZs in the field. Variable rates of dairy and beef feedlot manure applied on irrigated and dryland fields respectively ranged from 0 to 67 Mg ha−1. Surface soil quality parameters evaluated before and after this study included bulk density, organic matter, water-holding capacity, electrical conductivity, and particle-size analysis. Results indicate that animal manure applications of 44 and 67 Mg ha−1 significantly (P ≤ 0.05) increased soil organic matter and decreased bulk density of low- and medium-productivity-level MZs and had no significant impact on surface soil organic matter and bulk density of the high-productivity-level MZs. Animal manure significantly (P ≤ 0.05) increased surface soil water-holding capacity and soil electrical conductivity across zones; however, the maximum manure-induced soil EC was 1.0 dS m−1, which was below levels regarded as potentially harmful for maize production. Soil texture was not affected by animal manure applications. Colorado N leaching and P index indicated no environmental hazard associated with variable rate application of animal manure across MZs. This study indicates that variable-rate application of animal manure across MZs has potential to improve or maintain soil quality parameters over time without impairing the environment. ©, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
environmental impact; fertilizer application; furrow irrigation; leaching; maize; manure; nitrogen; phosphorus; precision agriculture; productivity; risk assessment; soil quality; topsoil; Colorado; United States; Animalia; Zea mays