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Application of Animal Manure/Compost in an Irrigated Alfalfa Production System

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  Paper number  032370,  2003 ASAE Annual Meeting . (doi: 10.13031/2013.14991) @2003
Authors:   Koli Ann Tanksley, Edward. C. Martin
Keywords:   Manure, irrigation, alfalfa, drainage lysimeters, nitrates, bacteria, phosphorus

The assessment of environmental degradation from farming practices has received recent attention due to the concern for sustainable agriculture. The United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have set forth the Unified National Animal Feeding Operation Strategy to protect the nations water resources from contamination. The Unified Animal Feeding Operation Strategy requires that field application of manure, a common fertilization method and manure disposal practice, may not exceed crop nutrient needs. In this research, the effects of the application of manure, both fresh and composted, on a production alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) field was examined. Manure and compost were applied to a production alfalfa field to determine the impact on alfalfa yield, soil nutrient content, and the potential for nitrate leaching. A conventional no nitrogen added treatment was also maintained as a control. Manure and compost were applied after each harvest in amounts such that the amount of nitrogen removed in the alfalfa harvest was replaced with the same amount of nitrogen in manure or compost. Soil analysis down to 150 cm depth showed an increase from the initial readings in the manure and compost plots but a relatively stable level in the no-nitrogen plots. Final PO4-P soil analysis revealed that compost and manure plots again had significant increase from the initial readings while the no-nitrogen plot was lower. Alfalfa yield did not vary between treatments throughout the one and a half year study. Also, no detectable nitrate or phosphate was found in the leachate collected from each of the treatments.

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