Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Agassiz, BC

The Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre was created in 1886 as an experimental farm and by 1900 was well known for its collection of more than 3,000 varieties of plants and fruit trees. Over the last 100 years research at the centre has included new varieties of fruits, vegetables and forages, with a focus on dairy cattle nutrition beginning in 1986, and the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre being established in 1998. Today, research at Agassiz also includes small fruits, greenhouse vegetables, special crops and forages; soil resource conservation and land evaluation. The Centre is also conducting research to improve the understanding of the flows, interactions and impacts of agriculture systems within densely populated regions, including the links between food, nutrition and health, securing and protecting food production, and balancing the activities of agriculture with the goal of a sustainable environment.

Precision Placement of Separated Dairy Sludge Improves Early Phosphorus Nutrition and Growth in Corn (Zea mays L.).

 Bittman, S., Liu, A., Hunt, D.E., Forge, T.A., Kowalenko, C.G., Chantigny, M.H., and Buckley, K.E. (2012). "Precision Placement of Separated Dairy Sludge Improves Early Phosphorus Nutrition and Growth in Corn (Zea mays L.).", Journal of Environmental Quality, 41(2), pp. 582-591. doi : 10.2134/jeq2011.0284  Access to full text


Efficient use of manure nutrients by crops is necessary to minimize losses to the environment. This field study examined the possibility of replacing side-banded mineral P with precision-placed high-P sludge (6.2-11.0% dry matter) obtained after settling dairy manure slurry.

The sludge was injected at about 30 kg P/ha (36.0-51.2 m3/ha) into the soil at corn row spacing, and the corn was planted 5, 10, and 15 cm beside the injection furrow. Controls included no added P and side-banded commercial P fertilizer. The treatments were tested on corn with low and high root colonization by arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM).

 The study showed that sludge did not impede AM root colonization, corn germination, or seedling growth. Corn plants with both high and low levels of AM colonization responded to the sludge from the three-leaf stage and showed the greatest benefit at the six-leaf stage. Corn responded more to sludge placed at 5 than at 15 cm from the corn rows, whereas the response at the 10-cm spacing was intermediate.

There was little difference in seedling growth or final harvest parameters between the side-banded fertilizer P and the 5-cm sludge treatment.

The results show a new way to use manure nutrients, namely precision-placement sludge for corn. This may remove the need for chemical fertilizers for improving farm nutrient balances. Other anticipated benefits are less energy use for hauling and injection of the sludge fraction and reduced risk of nutrient loss by runoff and volatilization (ammonia) and nuisance odors due to injection.


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