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Does fall removal of the dairy manure sludge in a storage tank reduce subsequent methane emissions?

Baldé, H., VanderZaag, A.C., Burtt, S.D., Gordon, R.J., and Desjardins, R.L. (2016 accepted). "Does fall removal of the dairy manure sludge in a storage tank reduce subsequent methane emissions?", Journal of Environmental Quality.


When liquid manure is removed from storages for land application, "sludge" generally remains at the bottom of the tank. This may serve as an inoculum when fresh manure is subsequently added, thereby increasing methane (CH) emissions. Previous pilot-scale studies have shown that completely emptying storages can decrease CH emissions; however, no farm-scale studies have been conducted to quantify the effect of sludge removal. In this study, a commercial dairy farm removed as much manure and sludge from their concrete storage as possible in the fall (∼2% by volume remained). Emissions of CH were measured during the following winter, spring, and summer, and compared with emissions measured the preceding 2 yr when most of the sludge had not been removed (∼14% of tank volume remained). Emissions were measured using a micrometeorological technique, utilizing open-path CH lasers. Contrary to what was hypothesized, removing the majority of sludge in fall did not delay the onset of CH emissions and did not decrease emissions the following summer. In fact, annual CH emissions were ∼16% higher. It is possible that fall removal provided sufficient time for microbial dynamics to be restored before the following summer when emissions were high. Future farm-scale research should examine the effect of spring (rather than fall) emptying for on-farm CH mitigation in both concrete tanks and earthen storages.

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