Animal agriculture is a major consumer and generator of both macro- and micronutrients. Intensification and regional concentration of animal production, due to economic and logistical advantages, have altered nutrient fluxes in agriculture systems, causing increased stock of nutrients in soils and, consequently, their emission to air and transport to surface water and groundwater. Established nutrient and manure planning frameworks, while effective in addressing nutrient point sources and using manure to enhance fertility and soil quality, have not been wholly successful in addressing farmand region-scale challenges with nutrient concentrations. This review article addresses nutrient management issues associated with modern animal agriculture by advancing the use of nutrient budgets and balances. This is accomplished by establishing core concepts for nutrient budgets and balances as they apply to animal agriculture. Relevant spatial scales for these budgets are reviewed, including field, whole-farm, and watershed scales, along with proposed methodologies and data sources for each. This study also identifies existing region- and commodity-specific metrics (when available) for use as thresholds for corrective action toward more balanced nutrient budgets. Finally, recommendations for the community of practitioners, researchers, and educators are provided to address nutrient imbalance in animal agriculture systems. At farm and region scale, nutrient balance investments will be needed to strengthen accounting methodologies, develop appropriate data sources for measurements, identify thresholds for action, and apply the methods in appropriate settings and decisions. Data availability and uncertainty are recognized as key limitations facing wider adoption of these concepts, particularly considering data ownership and privacy concerns. The lack of transparent datasets that capture current animal production practices and their impact on manure composition and nutrient cycling is a gap facing these methodologies. The lack of engagement by practitioners and producers in the development phase of such tools greatly affects their adoption and utility. The need for continued engagement in establishing accepted methodologies, training, data collection, and education are crucial to establish farm- and region-scale methods and measure their value to nutrient planning over time.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This review is a contribution from the USDA Multistate Research Project (S1074: Future Challenges in Animal Production Systems: Seeking Solutions through Focused Facilitation). We would like to acknowledge project participants whose comments and discussions helped improve this review.
© 2022 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.
- Farm scale
- Manure nutrients
- Nutrient budget
- Regional scale