Rainfall timing and poultry litter application rate effects on phosphorus loss in surface runoff

J Environ Qual. 2004 Nov-Dec;33(6):2201-9. doi: 10.2134/jeq2004.2201.


Phosphorus (P) in runoff from pastures amended with poultry litter may be a significant contributor to eutrophication of lakes and streams in Georgia and other areas in the southeastern United States. The objectives of this research were to determine the effects of litter application rate and initial runoff timing on the long-term loss of P in runoff from surface-applied poultry litter and to develop equations that predict P loss in runoff under these conditions. Litter application rates of 2, 7, and 13 Mg ha(-1), and three rainfall scenarios applied to 1- x 2-m plots in a 3 x 3 randomized complete block design with three replications. The rainfall scenarios included (i) sufficient rainfall to produce runoff immediately after litter application; (ii) no rainfall for 30 d after litter application; and (iii) small rainfall events every 7 d (5 min at 75 mm h(-1)) for 30 d. Phosphorus loss was greatest from the high litter rate and immediate runoff treatments. Nonlinear regression equations based on the small plot study produced fairly accurate (r(2) = 0.52-0.62) prediction of P concentrations in runoff water from larger (0.75 ha) fields over a 2-yr period. Predicted P concentrations were closest to observed values for events that occurred shortly after litter application, and the relative error in predictions increased with time after litter application. In addition, previously developed equations relating soil test P levels to runoff P concentrations were ineffective in the presence of surface-applied litter.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Fertilizers
  • Manure
  • Phosphorus / analysis*
  • Poultry
  • Rain*
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Time Factors
  • Water Movements
  • Water Pollutants / analysis*


  • Fertilizers
  • Manure
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants
  • Phosphorus