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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Change the timing of manure application Soil Fertility

Key messages

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One controlled, randomized, replicated site comparison study from the UK found less nitrate was lost from the soil when manure application was delayed from autumn until December or January.

SOIL TYPE COVERED: sandy-loam.


Supporting evidence from individual studies


A controlled, randomized, replicated site comparison study in 1990-1994 on sandy-loam in the UK (Beckwith et al. 1998) found greater nitrate losses following manure application in September-November (23.3 and 12.4 mg N/l lost at the two study sites, respectively), but applications in December or January were no different to the untreated control (< 0.5 mg N/l lost). Two manure treatments were tested at each site. Pig/cattle slurry and farmyard cattle manure  were tested at a Shropshire site and poultry litter and farmyard manure were tested at a Nottinghamshire site.. Manures were applied at 200 kg N/ha monthly between September and January to overwinter fallow or onto winter rye Secale cereale. Both sites also had an untreated control. An extra treatment was included to test the nitrification inhibitor dicyandiamide, which was applied at 20 l/ha. All treatments were replicated three times at both sites. Plots were 12 x 4 m and 15 x 4 m at the Shropshire and Nottinghamshire sites respectively.

Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Key, G., Whitfield, M., Dicks, L.V., Sutherland, W.J. & Bardgett, R.D. (2019) Enhancing Soil Fertility. Pages 627-648 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2019. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.