Estimating Phosphorus Loss at the Whole-Farm Scale with User-Friendly Models

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 8:30 AM
Peter Vadas1, Mark Powell1, Geoff Brink1, Dennis Busch2 and Laura Good3, (1)USDA-ARS, Madison, WI, United States, (2)University of Wisconsin Platteville, Platteville, WI, United States, (3)University of Wisconsin Madison, Madison, WI, United States
Phosphorus (P) loss from agricultural fields and delivery to surface waters persists as a water quality impairment issue. For dairy farms, P can be lost from cropland, pastures, barnyards, and open-air cattle lots; and all these sources must be evaluated to determine which ones are a priority for P loss remediation. We used interview surveys to document land use, cattle herd characteristics, and manure management for four grazing-based dairy farms in Wisconsin, USA. We then used the APLE and Snap-Plus models to estimate annual P loss from all areas on these farms and determine their relative contribution to whole-farm P loss. At the whole-farm level, average annual P loss (kg ha-1) from grazing-based dairy farms was low (0.6 to 1.8 kg ha-1), generally because a significant portion of land was in permanently vegetated pastures or hay and had low erosion. However, there were areas on the farms that represented sources of significant P loss. For cropland, the greatest P loss was from areas with exposed soil, typically for corn production, and especially on steeper sloping land. The farm areas with the greatest P loss had concentrated animal housing, including barnyards, and over-wintering and young-stock lots. These areas can represent from about 5% to almost 30% of total farm P loss, depending on lot management and P loss from other land uses. Our project builds on research to show that producer surveys can provide reliable management information to assess whole-farm P loss. It also shows that we can use models like RUSLE2, Snap-Plus, and APLE to rapidly, reliably, and quantitatively estimate P loss in runoff from all areas on a dairy farm and identify areas in greatest need of alternative management to reduce P loss.