Environmental benefits and economic costs of manure incorporation on dairy waste application fields

J Environ Manage. 2003 May;68(1):1-11. doi: 10.1016/s0301-4797(02)00226-8.


Model simulations performed representing dairies in a 93000 ha watershed in north central Texas suggest that manure incorporation results in reduced phosphorus (P) losses at relatively small to moderate cost to producers. Simulated manure incorporation with a tandem disk on fields double-cropped with sorghum/winter wheat resulted in up to 33, 45, and 37% reductions in per hectare sediment-bound, soluble, and total P losses in edge-of-field runoff, relative to simulated surface manure applications. The effects of incorporation were evaluated at three different manure application rates. On aggregate across all three manure application rates, significant declines in P losses were obtained with incorporation except for sediment-bound P losses under the N-based manure application rate scenario. We found that the practice of incorporating manure shortly after it has been broadcast on the soil surface could help reduce P losses in such situations where P-based rates alone prove inadequate. The cost the producer incurs when manure is incorporated is on average about 1% of net returns when manure is applied at the N rate and 2-3% when it is applied at alternative P-based rates. In practice the costs could be lower because producers may substitute the manure incorporation operation for a tandem disk operation performed prior to manure application. As more and more dairy producers switch to the use of sorghum and corn silage in dairy rations and consequent on-farm production of these forages, the practice of manure incorporation may help to reduce phosphorus losses resulting from dairy manure applications to fields with these forage crops.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / economics*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Dairying*
  • Fertilizers*
  • Manure*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Nitrogen / analysis
  • Phosphorus / analysis


  • Fertilizers
  • Manure
  • Phosphorus
  • Nitrogen