Manure Manager

Agronomy professor Dr. Brad Joern, who has made a name worldwide as an expert on nutrient management, has been selected to receive Purdue University’s 2011 Spirit of the Land Grant Mission Award.

Purdue researcher to receive Spirit of the Land Grant Mission Award

Agronomy professor Dr. Brad Joern, who has made a name worldwide as an expert on nutrient management, has been selected to receive Purdue University’s 2011 Spirit of the Land Grant Mission Award.

The award recognizes the accomplishments of a faculty member in the College of Agriculture, College of Health and Human Sciences or School of Veterinary Medicine whose work exemplifies the university’s land-grant mission of discovery, extension and learning.


Dr. Joern developed the Manure Management Planner, a computer program designed to help farmers optimize nutrient applications and minimize risks of nutrients reaching water sources. It is the only program used to generate nutrient management plans supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and it is available for use in 36 states.

“Brad Joern’s research has advanced our understanding of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertilizer movement through our environment and how fertility management and livestock diet manipulation can reduce the environmental effects of these important plant nutrients,” said Chuck Hibberd, director of Purdue Extension and associate dean of agriculture. “He has transformed his research into Extension programs and resources that inform farmers, industry and government across the U.S. He is considered a national leader in comprehensive nutrient management planning. We are extremely proud of Dr. Joern and his impact on nutrient management across the U.S.”

Dr. Joern also is a pioneer in the understanding of phosphorus movement through soil and how that can affect the environment, and how diet manipulation can reduce phosphorus excretion from livestock and poultry.

“Dr. Joern has made a tremendous impact on farmers across the United States,” said Karen Plaut, director of Agricultural Research Programs and associate dean of agriculture. “In particular, his work with animal scientists to determine how diet impacts nutrient utilization has helped farmers enhance their stewardship of the environment.”

A program honoring Dr. Joern was held in early October in the Dean’s Auditorium of Pfendler Hall. Dr. Joern presented a seminar entitled Bar Stools and Basket Weaving: Partnering to develop sustainable crop and livestock production systems.
He received a commemorative plaque, $10,000 to support his program and a $1,500 cash award.

Eco-design and LCA for spreading manure

Eco-design and life cycle analysis (LCA) are techniques commonly used in industry to design products that better respect the environment. At Cemagref, an environmental research institute in France, researchers apply these concepts to agricultural spreading of organic waste. The goal is to provide the professionals working in this field with high-performance tools and methods.

LCA inventories all matter and energy flows for a product or process and quantifies their impact on the environment throughout the life cycle of the product. As part of the ANR Precodd ECODEFI1 project (2007-2011), the researchers used LCA to create innovative methods to evaluate the technological performance of machines and the impacts of the various techniques for spreading organic waste. This research was supported by the ELSA2 center in Montpellier, the largest group of LCA researchers in France.

The project focused on the spreading of sludge from water-treatment plants, a type of organic waste rich in fertilizing elements that, once spread, can produce pollutants such as NO3, P2O5, N2O, NH3, heavy metals, etc. A set of 42 technological indicators to evaluate machine performance with respect to the service rendered (distribution, dosage, soil compaction, etc.) were established and tested at CEMOB3, a Cemagref test bench used to assess the spread pattern of the machines of the manufacturers participating in the project. A total of 45 spreading scenarios combining different technologies, pedoclimatic conditions and types of sludge were analyzed using LCA to determine which ones most affected the environment.

The project is now on the verge of producing results in the form of a simplified LCA tool and an eco-design guide. Two tools will be operational in 2011. Their goal is to assist the manufacturers of spreading machines and spreading professionals in improving the technical and environmental performance of future spreaders.

Chicken litter as fertilizer and nematode control

Along with Arkansas’ top ranking as a poultry-producing state comes a lot of chicken manure. What to do with it? A University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff (UAPB) research and assistant professor with the School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences is working on that.

Dr. Sixte Ntamatungiro has been evaluating pelletized chicken litter (PCL) and urea as fertilizer sources for the white-fleshed sweet potato cultivar, Kubota, and the use of PCL and urea to control soil-borne nematodes. Dr. Ntamatungiro is also determining the best way to do this.

Because of the high cost of inorganic fertilizer, alternative nitrogen fertilizer sources, such as pelletized chicken litter, can be a viable option. It is an important source of nutrients for crops as it improves soil and provides some control of soil-borne diseases. Already used as a fertilizer for row crops, such as wheat, rice, corn and cotton, PCL is certified by the Organic Materials Review (OMR) and marketed as MicroStart60Plus fertilizer. It has a nutrient analysis of four percent nitrogen, two percent phosphorus, and three percent potassium. It also contains calcium, magnesium and iron plus it is low in salt and safe to apply around people and animals.

Sweet potato plants require moderate amounts of nitrogen, a low amount of phosphorus but a high level of potassium.

Because PCL represents an affordable, cheap nutrient source, the study evaluated PCL as a source of nitrogen for sweet potatoes, comparing it to conventional urea fertilizer used as nitrogen by many farmers, and the most effective way to use the pelletized chicken litter.

Vine cuttings of Kubota with three nodes were planted in hills with one foot between the hills within a row on Calloway soil at the UAPB Agricultural Research Station Farm.

Dr. Ntamatungiro and assistant Joseph Davis investigated five scenarios:

  1. Control plot with no nitrogen applied
  2. Full rate of 40 pounds of nitrogen/acre applied as urea before planting
  3. Full rate of 40 pounds of nitrogen/acre applied as PCL before planting
  4. Half rate of 20 pounds of nitrogen/acre applied as urea before planting followed by a side dress of 20 pounds of nitrogen/acre three weeks after planting
  5. Half rate of 20 pounds of nitrogen/acre applied as PCL before planting followed by a side dress of 20 pounds of nitrogen/acre three weeks after planting

What they discovered is that pelletized chicken litter in combination with inorganic nitrogen fertilizer that is side dressed can be a suitable alternative to urea as a nitrogen fertilizer source for producing U.S. Grade 1 sweet potatoes. In addition, pelletized chicken litter can reduce the damaging effect of soil nematodes to sweet potato roots.

His data also showed that fertilizer applied in split applications timed to coincide with the growth stage of greater nitrogen demand by the plants is more efficiently used than the full fertilizer rate applied in one application.

Further research is needed to investigate the effect of other organic amendments to the soil on nutrient uptake and water use efficiency of sweet potato plants and on such nematodes and insects as sweet potato weevils, said Dr. Ntamatungiro.

More information and details about this research project are available in Vol. 10 of the Arkansas Environmental, Agricultural and Consumer Sciences Journal, available from journal editor Dr. Shahidul Islam at 870-575-7239 or .


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