Bacterial pathogens can degrade ground water quality by infiltrating and eroding from land treated with poultry wastes. The potential for ground water contamination (as well as associated health risks and cost of water treatment) greatly depends on the depth of soil to the water table or bedrock and soil structure. Pathogens must move through the soil profile to contaminate ground water (although sinkholes can provide a direct channel from the soil surface to the water table in karst areas). Deep soils have less potential for contamination than shallow soils. Structureless soils retain fecal bacteria better than well structured soils. Research at UK indicates that surface-applied fecal bacteria, and other contaminants, travel rapidly toward ground water through soil pores in well structured, intact soil. Tillage disrupts pores and channels in the tilled layer, and increases water and bacteria contact with soil. To improve our understanding of bacterial movement, and of the potential for ground water contamination, we decided to examine whether tillage affected fecal coliform transport through intact soil amended with poultry wastes. We used poultry wastes because their disposal is an increasingly important waste management issue in western Kentucky.
Coyne, Mark S.; McMurry, S. W.; and Perfect, E., "Tillage Slows Fecal Bacteria Infiltration through Soil" (1997). Soil Science News and Views. 17.