Low-disturbance manure incorporation effects on ammonia and nitrate loss

J Environ Qual. 2012 May-Jun;41(3):928-37. doi: 10.2134/jeq2011.0327.


Low-disturbance manure application methods can provide the benefits of manure incorporation, including reducing ammonia (NH3) emissions, in production systems where tillage is not possible. However, incorporation can exacerbate nitrate (NO3⁻) leaching. We sought to assess the trade-offs in NH3 and NO3⁻ losses caused by alternative manure application methods. Dairy slurry (2006-2007) and liquid swine manure (2008-2009) were applied to no-till corn by (i) shallow (<10 cm) disk injection, (ii) surface banding with soil aeration, (iii) broadcasting, and (iv) broadcasting with tillage incorporation. Ammonia emissions were monitored for 72 h after application using ventilated chambers and passive diffusion samplers, and NO3⁻ leaching to 80 cm was monitored with buried column lysimeters. The greatest NH3 emissions occurred with broadcasting (35-63 kg NH3-N ha⁻), and the lowest emissions were from unamended soil (<1 kg NH-N ha⁻¹). Injection decreased NH-N emissions by 91 to 99% compared with broadcasting and resulted in lower emissions than tillage incorporation 1 h after broadcasting. Ammonia-nitrogen emissions from banding manure with aeration were inconsistent between years, averaging 0 to 71% that of broadcasting. Annual NO3⁻ leaching losses were small (<25 kg NO3-N ha⁻¹) and similar between treatments, except for the first winter when NO3⁻ leaching was fivefold greater with injection. Because NO3⁻ leaching with injection was substantially lower over subsequent seasons, we hypothesize that the elevated losses during the first winter were through preferential flow paths inadvertently created during lysimeter installation. Overall, shallow disk injection yielded the lowest NH3 emissions without consistently increasing NO3⁻ leaching, whereas manure banding with soil aeration conserved inconsistent amounts of N.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / chemistry
  • Ammonia / chemistry*
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Fertilizers
  • Nitrates / chemistry*
  • Silage
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid / methods
  • Zea mays / growth & development


  • Air Pollutants
  • Fertilizers
  • Nitrates
  • Ammonia