Evaluating the effects of manure-based products on silage corn nitrogen uptake, fertilizer nitrogen use efficiency, soil nitrogen transformations, and nitrous oxide emissions

PI: Xia Zhu-Barker

Zhu-Barker is an assistant professor of soil science at UW–Madison who specializes in land and water stewardship. Her research aims to improve the performance of agroecosystems by integrating biogeochemical, ecological, environmental, agronomic, economic, and social knowledge into the food, energy, and water aspects of management decisions. Zhu-Barker’s position is funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub.

Graduate student (pictured above): Joshua Mirabella is pursuing a master’s in soil science and is mentored by Xia Zhu-Barker. He received his bachelor’s in environmental, soil, and water sciences from West Virginia University. His research interests involve carbon biogeochemical cycling and the human impact on cycle dynamics.

This proposed work aims to investigate the potential of processed manure to improve agricultural sustainability by addressing the challenges presented by large amounts of cattle manure. Dissolved air flocculation (DAF) and Sedron’s Varcor system are emerging technologies for processing manure to yield condensed nutrient-rich solids, but their impact on soil, crops, and N cycle dynamics is not yet fully understood. Through a combination of field experimentation and lab incubation, the study will investigate the impacts of manure-based products on crop N uptake, fertilizer N use efficiency, soil N mineralization rate, N2O emissions, and distribution of fertilizer N along the soil profile. The research aims to provide valuable insight into how processed manure can be used to improve the efficiency of agricultural systems and contribute to the development of guidelines for farmers seeking to better utilize manure products in their fields. The study aligns with the Dairy Innovation Hub’s goal of stewarding land and water resources and aims to contribute to efforts to reduce overfertilization and its associated environmental consequences. Ultimately, the findings of this study will aid in the development of more sustainable agriculture practices and support the long-term health of our ecosystems.

Joshua Mirabella