KWRRI Research Reports


Grazed pastures represent a source of potential nonpoint pollution. In comparison to other nonpoint sources (e.g., row-cropped lands), relatively little information exists regarding possible magnitudes of pollution from grazed pasture; how that pollution is affected by weather, soil, management and other variables; and how the pollution can be minimized. The objective of this study was to assess how the quality of runoff from simulated grazed pasture is influenced by grazing duration (4-12 weeks), grazing strategy (no grazing, conventional grazing and rotational grazing), and by the use of grassed buffer strips (ranging in length from O to 18.3 m) installed down-slope of simulated pasture. The study was conducted at the University of Kentucky Maine Chance Agricultural Experiment Station north of Lexington. Plots (2.4 m wide by 6.1 to 30.5 m long) were constructed and established in Kentucky 31 "tall" fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) to represent pasture. Grazing was simulated by application of beef cattle manure to the plots. Runoff was generated by applying simulated rainfall. Runoff samples were collected and analyzed according to standard methods for nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), total suspended solids (TSS), and fecal coliform (FC). Runoff concentrations and transport of N and P from the plots used to simulate conventional and rotational grazing were low and, in many cases, not different from those measured for ungrazed plots. Runoff FC concentrations were greater for the simulated grazed plots than for the control plots, but there was no difference in concentrations between the simulated conventional and rotational grazing treatments. The buffer strips were very effective in removing TKN, P04-P, TSS and FC in incoming runoff from manured plots. Concentrations of all these parameters were indistinguishable from background levels after crossing a buffer length of 6.1 m. This finding is attributed largely to very high infiltration in the plots used to assess the buffer strips.

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The work on which this report is based was supported in part by the Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. as authorized by the Water Resources Research Act as amended in 1996 by P.L. 104-147.

The activities on which this report is based were financed in part by the Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, through the Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute.