Tracking Phosphorus Runoff from Livestock
Nutrient runoff from livestock
manure is a common source of agricultural pollution. Looking for an uncommon
solution, a team of scientists has developed an application of rare earth
elements to control and track runoff phosphorus from soils receiving livestock
manure. In addition to reducing the solubility of phosphorus, this method shows
particular promise for researchers interested in tracking the fate of manure
nutrients in agricultural settings.
Led by Anthony Buda, a team of scientists from the USDA Agricultural Research
Service and the Chinese Academy of Sciences applied two rare earth chlorides
(lanthanum chloride and ytterbium chloride) to poultry, dairy, and swine
manures. The goals were to evaluate the effects of rare earth elements on
phosphorus solubility in manures and to describe the fate of phosphorus and rare
earth elements in surface runoff when manures were surface-applied to packed
soil boxes and subjected to simulated rainfall.
The study was reported in the May/June 2010 edition of the Journal of
Environmental Quality, published by the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop
Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America.
Common uses for rare earth elements include industry, technology, and
agricultural production, but there is a growing trend for using them in
environmental research, particularly to label and track soil erosion and
sedimentation during storm events on agricultural and rangeland watersheds.
The results of the study showed that rare earth elements had a remarkable
ability to reduce soluble phosphorus in livestock manures. In particular, adding
lanthanum resulted in maximum reductions of water extractable phosphorus from
dairy and poultry manures.
While these soluble phosphorus reductions were comparable to using other
chemical treatments such as alum and lime, widespread use of rare earth elements
in this manner would likely be cost prohibitive.
According to the authors of the study, the real potential benefit of rare earth
elements lies in their ability to label phosphorus in livestock manures, a boon
for researchers. Their rainfall simulation experiment clearly showed that rare
earth elements precipitated greater than 50% of the dissolved phosphorus in
runoff. The results revealed that rare earth elements can be used to track the
fate of phosphorus and other manure constituents from soils treated with
This study introduces rare earth elements as a potentially valuable new tool for
research in agricultural phosphorus management. Extending this technique to
field, landscape, and small watershed scales will contribute to testing and
validating phosphorus management strategies, including critical source area
management. Agriculture, particularly the dairy, poultry and swine industries,
stand to benefit from improved nutrient containment of their manure-treated
The full article is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of
this summary. View the abstract at http://jeq.scijournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/39/3/1028.
The Journal of Environmental Quality, http://jeq.scijournals.org is a
peer-reviewed, international journal of environmental quality in natural and
agricultural ecosystems published six times a year by the American Society of
Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and the Soil Science
Society of America (SSSA). The Journal of Environmental Quality covers various
aspects of anthropogenic impacts on the environment, including terrestrial,
atmospheric, and aquatic systems.
The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) www.agronomy.org, is a scientific society
helping its 8,000+ members advance the disciplines and practices of agronomy by
supporting professional growth and science policy initiatives, and by providing
quality, research-based publications and a variety of member services.
Source: American Society of Agronomy
(ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), Soil Science Society of America
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