Pilot-Scale Testing of Dairy Manure Treatments to Reduce Nutrient Transport from Land Application, Northwest Ohio, 2015–17

Scientific Investigations Report 2020-5015
Prepared in cooperation with the Ohio Water Development Authority
By: , and 

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Abstract

Manure and wastewater from large livestock operations have the potential to negatively affect surface water and groundwater, including the eutrophication of surface waters and harmful algal blooms. In the Western Lake Erie Basin, where there is a high density of animal agriculture, harmful algal blooms have been attributed, in part, to phosphorus loading from dairy manure and fertilizer applications. Liquid lagoon manure produced by dairy operations typically has low nutrient concentrations and high-water content, so transportation costs are high relative to the value of the nutrients when applied to fields. Treatment systems are needed to transform manure into a dewatered product that is more economical to transport greater distances and that slows and (or) reduces the release of nutrients in soil, allowing nutrients to remain available for crop growth.

This study was designed to pilot test a treatment solution in the Western Lake Erie Basin. The U.S. Geological Survey and Bowling Green State University field tested a dewatering treatment process (coagulant/polymer mixture) for dairy manure at pilot-scale test plots at The Ohio State University Agricultural Research and Development Center Northwest Agricultural Research Station. Automatic samplers were used to collect samples during 13 baseline and 9 post-manure application rainfall events that resulted in substantial surface runoff and (or) tile flow from October 2015 through early November 2017. Results are reported for three test plots that received liquid lagoon manure (raw manure) and three test plots that received polymer-treated manure (treated manure).

Nutrient concentrations and flow volumes in surface runoff and tile flow were determined in baseline and post-manure application rainfall events. Nutrient concentration ranges are reported for 9 baseline and 9 post-manure application events as follows: dissolved reactive phosphorus, less than (<) 0.013−2.16 milligrams per liter (mg/L); nitrate plus nitrite, filtered, 0.32−77 mg/L; ammonia, filtered, <0.05−2.6 mg/L; total phosphorus, <0.01−12.8 mg/L; and total nitrogen, 1.49−77.2 mg/L. Volumes are reported for 6 baseline and 9 post-manure application rainfall events. None of the post-manure application runoff volumes were significantly different by plot or by treatment type (raw manure versus treated manure).

Because concentrations alone do not reflect the true effects of different manure treatments, loads and flow-weighted mean concentrations of nutrients during post-manure application rainfall events were compared between plots with treated manure and those with raw manure. Loads of dissolved reactive phosphorus, total phosphorus, nitrate plus nitrite, and total nitrogen were calculated using the U.S. Geological Survey Graphical Constituent Loading and Analysis System. Loads of ammonia were not calculated because many of the ammonia concentrations were below the reporting limit.

During the post-manure application period, higher nitrogen loads resulted from tile flow than surface runoff. For phosphorus, the opposite was true in that higher loads resulted from surface runoff than tile flow. Combined loads (surface runoff and tile flow) of dissolved reactive phosphorus were significantly different between raw manure and treated manure plots, but there was no significant difference in combined loads of total phosphorus, nitrate plus nitrite, or total nitrogen between raw manure and treated manure plots. Flow-weighted mean concentrations were calculated for the combined loads for the post-manure application rainfall events. Flow-weighted mean concentrations of dissolved reactive phosphorus and, to a lesser extent, total phosphorus were significantly different between raw manure and treated manure plots. Flow-weighted mean concentrations of nitrate plus nitrite and total nitrogen were not significantly different between raw manure and treated manure plots. The differences in loads and flow-weighted mean concentrations between raw manure and treated manure plots indicate that dissolved reactive phosphorus was likely retained in the soil and hydrological transport was reduced for the plots amended with the treated manure as compared to raw manure. Although confirmation field testing needs to be done, these results indicate that the use of this coagulant/polymer mixture shows potential in helping to reduce flow of dissolved phosphorus from agricultural fields with applied manure.

Suggested Citation

Francy, D.S., Brady, A.M.G., Ash, B.L., and Midden, W.R., 2020, Pilot-scale testing of dairy manure treatments to reduce nutrient transport from land application, northwest Ohio, 2015–17: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2020–5015, 31 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20205015.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Purpose and Scope
  • Methods of Study
  • Quality-Control Measures of Bias and Variability
  • Sampling Events and Concentrations of Nutrients in Surface Runoff and Tile Flow Samples
  • Water Volumes
  • Comparisons of Nutrient Loads and Flow-Weighted Mean Concentrations from Raw Manure and Treated Manure Plots
  • Corn Yields
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. Sample Processing Cheat Sheet
  • Appendix 2. Data Tables

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Pilot-scale testing of dairy manure treatments to reduce nutrient transport from land application, northwest Ohio, 2015–17
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2020-5015
DOI 10.3133/sir20205015
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Water Science Center
Description Report: viii, 31 p.; Appendix Tables
Country United States
State Ohio
County Ottawa County, Wood County, Putnam County, Allen County, Hardin County, Hancock County, Wyandot County, Seneca County, Sandusky County
Online Only (Y/N) Y
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