Grazing Management and Buffer Strip Impact on Nitrogen Runoff from Pastures Fertilized with Poultry Litter
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Nitrogen runoff from pastures fertilized with animal manure, such as poultry litter, can result in accelerated eutrophication. The objective of this study was to evaluate the long-term effects of grazing management and buffer strips on N runoff from pastures fertilized with poultry litter. A 12-yr study was conducted on 15 small watersheds in Booneville, AR, using five management practices: continuous grazing, haying, rotational grazing, rotational grazing with an unfertilized buffer strip, and rotational grazing with a fenced unfertilized riparian buffer. Poultry litter was applied annually at a rate of 5.6 Mg ha. Concentrations and loads of total N, NO-N, NH-N, organic N, and total organic C in runoff varied intra- and interannually and coincided with precipitation trends. Overall, the greatest component of total N in runoff was organic N. Rotational grazing resulted in the highest concentrations and loads of all forms of N in runoff compared with other treatments, including the continuously grazed paddocks, which were grazed almost twice as much. Total organic C concentrations and loads in runoff were also higher from rotationally grazed watersheds than other treatments. Rotational grazing is considered a best management practice that typically reduces soil erosion; hence, the mechanism by which it caused higher N and C runoff is unclear. Nitrogen runoff losses from rotationally grazed pastures were reduced by 44% with unfertilized buffer strips, by 54% with fenced unfertilized riparian buffers, and by 52% by converting pastures to hayfields.
author list (cited authors)
Pilon, C., Moore, P. A., Pote, D. H., Martin, J. W., Owens, P. R., Ashworth, A. J., Miller, D. M., & DeLaune, P. B.