Broiler Litter Application Method and Runoff Timing Eff ects on Nutrient and Escherichia coli Losses from Tall Fescue Pasture
Journal of Environmental Quality , 38 , 2009

Sistani, K.R., Torbert, H.A., Way, T.R., Bolster, C.H., Pote, D.H., Warren, J.G.

The inability to incorporate manure into permanent pasture leads to the concentration of nutrients near the soil surface with the potential to be transported off site by runoff water. In this study, we used rainfall simulations to examine the effect of broiler chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) litter application method and the runoff timing on nutrient and E. coli losses from tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) pasture on a Hartsells sandy loam soil (fine-loamy, siliceous, subactive, thermic Typic Hapludults)) in Crossville, AL. Treatments included two methods of litter application (surface broadcast and subsurface banding), commercial fertilizer, and control. Litter was applied at a rate of 8.97 Mg ha(-1). Treatments were assigned to 48 plots with four blocks (12 plots each) arranged in a randomized complete block design to include three replications in each block. Simulated rainfall was applied to treatments as follows: Day 1, block 1 (runoff 1); Day 8, block 2 (runoff 2); Day 15, block 3 (runoff 3); and Day 22, block 4 (runoff 4). Total phosphorus (TP), inorganic N, and Escherichia coli concentrations in runoff from broadcast litter application were all significantly greater than from subsurface litter banding. The TP losses from broadcast litter applications averaged 6.8 times greater than those from subsurface litter applications. About 81% of the runoff TP was in the form of dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) for both litter-application methods. The average losses of NO(3)-N and total suspended solids (TSS) from subsurface banding plots were 160 g ha(-1) and 22 kg ha(-1) compared to 445 g ha(-1) and 69 kg ha(-1) for the broadcast method, respectively. Increasing the time between litter application and the first runoff event helped decrease nutrient and E. coli losses from surface broadcast litter, but those losses generally remained significantly greater than controls and subsurface banded, regardless of runoff timing. This study shows that subsurface litter banding into perennial grassland can substantially reduce nutrient and pathogen losses in runoff compared to the traditional surface-broadcast practice.