An environmental assessment of cattle manure and urea fertilizer treatments for corn production in the northern great plains

C. Alan Rotz, Senorpe Asem-Hiablie, Erin Cortus, Mindy Spiehs, Shafiqur Rahman, Anne Stoner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and carbon (C) emissions from livestock systems have become important regional, national, and international concerns. Our objective was to use process-level simulation to explore differences among manure and inorganic fertilizer treatments in a corn production system used to feed finishing cattle in the Northern Great Plains region of the U.S. Our analysis included model assessment, simulation to compare treatments under recent climate, and comparisons using projected midcentury climate. The Integrated Farm System Model was evaluated in representing the performance and nutrient losses of corn production using cattle manure without bedding, manure with bedding, urea, and no fertilization treatments. Two-year field experiments conducted near Clay Center, Nebraska; Brookings, South Dakota; and Fargo, North Dakota provided observed emission data following these treatments. Means of simulated emission rates of methane, ammonia, and nitrous oxide were generally similar to those observed from field-applied manure or urea fertilizer. Simulation of corn production systems over 25 years of recent climate showed greater soluble P runoff with use of feedlot and bedded manure compared to use of inorganic fertilizers, but life-cycle fossil energy use and greenhouse gas emission were decreased. Compared to feedlot manure, application of bedded pack manure generally increased N and P losses in corn production by retaining more N in manure removed from a bedded housing facility and through increased runoff because a large portion of the stover was removed from the cornfield for use as bedding material. Simulation of these treatments using projected midcentury climate indicated a trend toward a small increase in simulated grain production in the Dakotas and a small decrease for irrigated corn in Nebraska. Climate differences affected the three production systems similarly, so production and environmental impact differences among the fertilization systems under future climate were similar to those obtained under recent climate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1185-1196
Number of pages12
JournalTransactions of the ASABE
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Climate change
  • Greenhouse gas
  • Integrated Farm System Model
  • Nutrient losses


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