Do Cover Crop Residue and No-Till Increase Poultry Litter Runoff?

Cooprider, M.A., Coyne, M.S.

Manure and litter produced during broiler production are an environmental issue in Kentucky. The most common and practical disposal method is to apply the poultry wastes to pasture and crop land. If the wastes are incorporated by tillage immediately after application to crop land, nitrogen that might otherwise be lost by ammonia volatilization is conserved. However, incorporating wastes is not possible in no-till, which is a best management practice (BMP) used by 51% of Kentucky's farmers to control soil erosion. One question is whether surface application of poultry wastes onto no-till fields could increase fecal bacteria contamination of surrounding waterways if surface runoff occurs. Because no-till is extensively used by Kentucky farmers, we felt it was important to examine: (1) the cumulative runoff of soil and fecal contaminants after applying unincorporated poultry litter to no-till soil and (2) the effect of such surface application on the trapping efficiency of grass filter strips, a currently recommended BMP for controlling manure and fecal bacteria runoff. We also wanted to see whether varying the amount of surface residue on no-till soils affected subsequent runoff water quality from litter-amended no-till soil and filter strips capturing any potential runoff.