Water Quality Impacts of Cover Crop/Manure Management Systems

Doctoral thesis OPEN
Kern, James Donald (1997)
  • Publisher: Virginia Tech
  • Subject: water quality | manure | cover crop | injection

Crop production, soil system, water quality, and economic impacts of four corn silage production systems were compared through a field study including 16 plots (4 replications of each treatment). Systems included a rye cover crop and application of liquid dairy manure in the spring and fall. The four management systems were: 1) traditional, 2) double- crop, 3) roll-down, and 4) undercut. In the fourth system, manure was applied below the soil surface during the undercutting process. In all other systems, manure was surface-applied. In the third system, the rye crop was flattened with a heavy roller after manure application. Simulated rainfall was applied within 48 h of manure application. Measured constituent concentrations in runoff were compared with water quality criteria. Costs and returns of all systems were compared. The undercut system reduced loadings of all nutrients, but increased total suspended solids (TSS) concentration as compared with all other systems. The mean volume of runoff from the undercut system was less than half that from any other system, which influenced all constituent loadings. Mean TSS concentration in runoff from the undercut system was over three times the mean of any other system. The roll-down system had no significant effect on water quality as compared to the traditional system. The undercut system was reasonably effective in keeping phosphate phosphorus levels below the criterion set for bathing water. None of the systems generally exceeded nitrate nitrogen concentration criteria. However, total phosphorus, orthophosphate, fecal coliform and e. coli criteria for drinking, bathing, shellfish harvest, and aesthetics were regularly exceeded by all of the systems. There were no differences among the treatments in effects on bacterial concentrations. The double-crop system produced significantly higher net returns than all other systems only if the value of the rye crop was $92.31/Mg or more. There were no significant differences in net returns of the traditional, roll-down, or undercut systems.
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