Plot-scale experimentation can provide valuable insight into the effects of manure management practices on phosphorus (P) runoff, but whole-farm evaluation is needed for complete assessment of potential trade offs. Artificially-applied rainfall experimentation on small field plots and event-based and long-term simulation modeling were used to compare P loss in runoff related to two dairy manure application methods (surface application with and without incorporation by tillage) on contrasting Pennsylvania soils previously under no-till management. Results of single-event rainfall experiments indicated that average dissolved reactive P losses in runoff from manured plots decreased by up to 90% with manure incorporation while total P losses did not change significantly. Longer-term whole farm simulation modeling indicated that average dissolved reactive P losses would decrease by 8% with manure incorporation while total P losses would increase by 77% due to greater erosion from fields previously under no-till. Differences in the two methods of inference point to the need for caution in extrapolating research findings. Single-event rainfall experiments conducted shortly after manure application simulate incidental transfers of dissolved P in manure to runoff, resulting in greater losses of dissolved reactive P. However, the transfer of dissolved P in applied manure diminishes with time. Over the annual time frame simulated by whole farm modeling, erosion processes become more important to runoff P losses. Results of this study highlight the need to consider the potential for increased erosion and total P losses caused by soil disturbance during incorporation. This study emphasizes the ability of modeling to estimate management practice effectiveness at the larger scales when experimental data is not available.
Additional publication details
Assessing manure management strategies through small-plot research and whole-farm modeling