A new method of injecting poultry litter into the soil allows growers to reap the extensive benefits of this type of manure while promoting water quality by lessening the potential for agricultural runoff.
The subsurfer allows crop growers to benefit from the use of poultry litter, which is high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and has been shown to increase yields without increasing the potential for having a negative environmental impact, said Amanda Douridas, an Ohio State University Extension agriculture and natural resources educator.
"The machine creates eight rows of trenches that are 2 in. wide, 3 ft. deep and about 12 in. apart, using rotating augers to deposit the litter below the surface and covering the trenches," she said. "The augers help break up large chunks of litter into a fine material that is better deposited into the soil.
"The method improves water quality because it results in less phosphorus in groundwater and also lessens the amount of nitrogen that is released into the air," she added. "Until now, solid manures could only be surface applied, with or without tillage, which increases runoff risks."
Created by scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, the subsurfer has been found to lower nutrient runoff and ammonia emissions by some 90% while increasing forage yields, USDA said in published reports.
Although it is still in the prototype phase, the machine can be used in pastures and no-till fields. It can also use composted cattle manure, according to USDA.