A new method of poultry litter application to perennial pasture: Subsurface banding

Recently, incorporation of poultry litter by subsurface band application into pasture has been shown to reduce surface runoff transport of nutrients; however, data to evaluate the impact of this potential management strategy on forage production, forage nutrient concentrations, or the accumulation of soil nutrients after multiyear applications is limited. Therefore, two experiments, one in bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.] and one in tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) were initiated in which treatments included (i) a standard commercial fertilizer application, (ii) a surface broadcast litter application, (iii) poultry litter applied in subsurface bands placed 25 cm apart, and (iv) poultry litter applied in subsurface bands placed 38 cm apart. The experiments were conducted for 3 yr on a Hartsells (fine-loamy, siliceous, subactive, thermic Typic Hapludult) soil at Crossville, AL, and showed that subsurface band applications resulted in forage yields equivalent to those achieved by conventional broadcast litter applications. Subsurface band applications also did not generally impact forage N, P, and K concentrations compared with surface litter applications. Three years of subsurface band applications to a depth of approximately 4 cm did not significantly alter the Mehlich 3 extractable nutrient content of soils collected at a depth of 0 to 15 cm. Data suggest, however, that subsurface band application would allow increases in subsurface movement of nutrients, as was evidenced by increased Cu concentrations at the 15- to 30-cm depth. The data suggest that the environmental benefits of subsurface band application of poultry litter into grass production systems are achieved without detrimental impacts on forage productivity or nutrient concentrations.

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