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Residue Level and Manure Application Timing Effects on Runoff and Sediment Losses

Grande, Joseph D., Karthikeyan, K. G., Miller, Paul S., Powell, J. Mark
Journal of environmental quality 2005 v.34 no.4 pp. 1337
water pollution, pollution control, corn silage, crop residues, dairy cattle, cattle manure, liquid manure, application timing, agricultural runoff, soil organic matter, soil aggregation, soil erosion, erosion control, pollution load, sediment yield, particle size distribution
There is growing interest in evaluating the effects of corn silage harvesting methods on erosion control. Increasing the silage cutting height will increase residue cover and could conceivably minimize off-site migration of sediments compared with conventional silage harvesting. The effects of residue level and manure application timing on runoff and sediment losses from no-till corn were examined. Treatments included conventional corn grain (G) and silage (SL) and nonconventional, high-cut (60–65 cm) silage (SH). Corn harvesting treatments were subjected to different manure application regimes: no manure (N) or surface application in fall (F) or spring (S). Simulated rainfall (76 mm/h; 1 h) was applied in spring and fall for two years (2002–2003), runoff from 2.0- × 1.5-m plots collected, and a subsample analyzed for sediment concentration and aggregate size distribution. Runoff volume was inversely related to residue cover. Manure addition to silage plots reduced spring runoff by 71 to 88%, attributable to an increase in soil organic matter content, compared with SH–N and SL–N. Differences in sediment concentration between SH and SL were not significant. For silage plots, spring-applied manure had the greatest influence on sediment export reducing it by 84 to 93% in spring runoff compared with corresponding N plots. Sediment loads were also 85 to 97% lower from SH–S compared with SL–N in all four seasons. Except for spring 2003, sediment export was lower from G compared with SL. The combination of manure and higher residue associated with high-cut silage often lowered sediment export compared with low-cut silage. Nearly identical aggregate size distributions were observed in sediments from SH and SL plots. High residue levels combined with spring-applied manure led to enrichment in the clay-sized fraction of runoff sediment. Recently applied manure and higher residue levels achieved by high-cutting silage can substantially lower sediment losses in spring runoff when soil is most susceptible to erosion.