Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center
Project Number: 6020-21310-009-10
Start Date: Jul 01, 2009
End Date: Jun 30, 2014
The project will be conducted in seven sub-watersheds of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to test and deliver subsurface application technology to farmers, and will serve as a centerpiece of coordinated nutrient management efforts. In each sub-watershed, local team leaders will work with conservation districts, extension, and private-sector partners to test and refine the performance of a prototype subsurface applicator. This tractor-drawn implement, known as the "ARS Poultry Litter Subsurfer," will be tested in field trials on commercial farms and research stations to quantify and demonstrate agronomic and environmental benefits. The project will be conducted over 27 months, with the first 6 months primarily dedicated to manufacturing the prototype applicators and preparation of other project materials, while the bulk of field activities and technology transfer will occur in the final 21 months. Working with the applicator manufacturer, adjustments will be made to individual applicators to address conditions in each of the sub-watersheds to ensure the best possible performance. Field trials will be initiated on three to five farms per sub-watershed to test the performance of the applicator relative to two conventional options: surface application and no application. With farmer participation, N- and P-based rates of dry manure application will be evaluated by monitoring yield, soil, and plant-tissue quality. The impact of subsurface application on environmental variables will be quantified using a two-phased approach. In the first phase, loss of nutrients through runoff and volatilization will be directly measured and compared for subsurface application and conventional surface application, generating data on sediment and nutrient loads as well as ammonia-N emissions to the atmosphere. In the second phase, measurements from the first phase will be used to develop efficiency factors for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Technology transfer is the ultimate goal of this project, and all major agricultural stakeholders in the sub-watersheds will be engaged in the process. Outreach activities aimed at organizing interested parties will be initiated in each of the project sub-watersheds. A variety of informational media will be used to garner interest/support, including brochures, a web page, and informational video. Inaugural meetings will transition into on-farm trials, demonstrations, field days, and equipment loans. Working with extension, SWCD, state and federal programs, recommendations will be developed for use of the subsurface applicator by farmers.