Cover crop, manure application timing, nitrification inhibitors, and biochar impact on nitrogen loss in Midwestern soils
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Manures are known to be useful fertilizers, but challenges associated with equipment availability, timeliness of field activities, and storage management can make the utilization of manure as a fertilizer more challenging than other options. As farmers face greater scrutiny about their production practices and their impact on water quality, the need for tools in nitrogen management increases. These include, but are not limited to: cover crops, nitrification inhibitors, and biochar used with animal manures. These three topics will be investigated in lab settings their efficacy covered in this thesis. Cover crops have the ability to protect the soil from erosion, provide organic matter through biomass, and assist in nutrient retention. We investigated the most optima time to apply liquid swine manure with a cover crop, as to provide best practice techniques for farmers. Nitrification inhibitors are applied with a fertilizer and work to disrupt the nitrogen cycle, improving nutrient uptake for the crop. We are able to determine that cover crops may be used with swine manure for NO3-N retention, if cover crop is given adequate time to emerge and establish itself A meta-analysis was completed to determine the effectiveness of these inhibitors in a variety of settings in the Midwestern United States. Biochar works as a soil amendment, provides water and nutrient retention, and adds carbon to the soil. Nitrification inhibitors are a great addition to fertilizers due to their ability to retain nitrogen, offering corn yield benefits. Biochar also has the possibility of being a beneficial addition to liquid swine manure to provide nutrient retention in soils. The objective of this thesis was to understand better how each of these tools can assist in nitrogen management in agriculture, in order to provide recommendations for those in the agriculture industry.