Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 84, Issue 3, pp 215–227 | Cite as

Application of manure to no-till soils: phosphorus losses by sub-surface and surface pathways

  • Peter J. A. Kleinman
  • Andrew N. Sharpley
  • Lou S. Saporito
  • Anthony R. Buda
  • Ray B. Bryant
Research Article


The acceleration of surface water eutrophication attributed to agricultural runoff has focused attention on manure management in no-till. We evaluated losses of phosphorus (P) in sub-surface and surface flow as a function of dairy manure application to no-till soils in north-central Pennsylvania. Monitoring of a perennial spring over 36 months revealed that dissolved reactive P (DRP) concentrations increased 3- to 28-fold above background levels whenever manure was broadcast to nearby field soils. A study conducted with 30-cm deep intact soil cores indicated that incorporation of manure by tillage lowered P loss in leachate relative to broadcast application, presumably due to the destruction of preferential flow pathways. More P was leached from a sandy loam than a clay loam soil, although differences between soils were not as great as differences between application methods. In contrast, rainfall simulations on 2-m2 field runoff plots showed that total P (TP) losses in surface runoff differed significantly by soil but not by application method. Forms of P in surface runoff did change with application method, with DRP accounting for 87 and 24% of TP from broadcast and tilled treatments, respectively. Losses of TP in leachate from manured columns over 7 weeks (0.22–0.38 kg P ha−1) were considerably lower than losses in surface runoff from manured plots subjected to a single simulated rainfall event (0.31–2.07 kg TP ha−1). Results confirm the near-term benefits of incorporating manure by tillage to protect groundwater quality, but suggest that for surface water quality, avoiding soils prone to runoff is more important.


Phosphorus Runoff Leaching No-till Dairy manure 



Dissolved reactive P


Dissolved organic P


Effective depth of interaction


Total dissolved P


Total P



The authors thank Ms. Sarah Orner for her work in sampling spring water and maintaining field management records. In addition, we thank the staff of the USDA—ARS Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Laboratory for their contributions to this study. Rain simulation experiments were conducted by Jenn Logan, Joe Quatrini, Zach Smith and Benjamin Thonus. Soil columns were collected by David Otto and Terry Troutman. Laboratory analyses were conducted by Jaime Davis, Bart Moyer and Joan Weaver.


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Copyright information

©  US Government  2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter J. A. Kleinman
    • 1
  • Andrew N. Sharpley
    • 2
  • Lou S. Saporito
    • 1
  • Anthony R. Buda
    • 1
  • Ray B. Bryant
    • 1
  1. 1.USDA, Agricultural Research ServicePasture Systems and Watershed Management Research UnitUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, Division of AgricultureUniversity of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA

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