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Chemical amendment of pig slurry: control of runoff related risks due to episodic rainfall events up to 48 h after application

Abstract

Losses of phosphorus (P) from soil and slurry during episodic rainfall events can contribute to eutrophication of surface water. However, chemical amendments have the potential to decrease P and suspended solids (SS) losses from land application of slurry. Current legislation attempts to avoid losses to a water body by prohibiting slurry spreading when heavy rainfall is forecast within 48 h. Therefore, in some climatic regions, slurry spreading opportunities may be limited. The current study examined the impact of three time intervals (TIs; 12, 24 and 48 h) between pig slurry application and simulated rainfall with an intensity of 11.0 ± 0.59 mm h−1. Intact grassed soil samples, 1 m long, 0.225 m wide and 0.05 m deep, were placed in runoff boxes and pig slurry or amended pig slurry was applied to the soil surface. The amendments examined were: (1) commercial-grade liquid alum (8 % Al2O3) applied at a rate of 0.88:1 [Al/ total phosphorus (TP)], (2) commercial-grade liquid ferric chloride (38 % FeCl3) applied at a rate of 0.89:1 [Fe/TP] and (3) commercial-grade liquid poly-aluminium chloride (10 % Al2O3) applied at a rate of 0.72:1 [Al/TP]. Results showed that an increased TI between slurry application and rainfall led to decreased P and SS losses in runoff, confirming that the prohibition of land-spreading slurry if heavy rain is forecast in the next 48 h is justified. Averaged over the three TIs, the addition of amendment reduced all types of P losses to concentrations significantly different (p < 0.05) to those from unamended slurry, with no significant difference between treatments. Losses from amended slurry with a TI of 12 h were less than from unamended slurry with a TI of 48 h, indicating that chemical amendment of slurry may be more effective at ameliorating P loss in runoff than current TI-based legislation. Due to the high cost of amendments, their incorporation into existing management practices can only be justified on a targeted basis where inherent soil characteristics deem their usage suitable to receive amended slurry.

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Acknowledgments

The first author gratefully acknowledges the award of the EMBARK scholarship from the Irish Research Council to support this study. The authors would like to thank Dr. David Wall, Malika Sidibe and Perinne Rutkowski.

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Correspondence to Mark G. Healy.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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O’ Flynn, C.J., Healy, M.G., Wilson, P. et al. Chemical amendment of pig slurry: control of runoff related risks due to episodic rainfall events up to 48 h after application. Environ Sci Pollut Res 20, 6019–6027 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-013-1630-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-013-1630-0

Keywords

  • Pig slurry
  • Runoff
  • P sorbing amendments
  • Nitrates Directive
  • Water Framework Directive
  • Phosphorus
  • Suspended solids