The large quantities of slurry and manure that are produced annually in many areas in which cattle are raised could be an important source of organic matter and nutrients for agriculture. However, the benefits of waste recycling may be partially offset by the risk of water pollution associated with runoff from the fields to which slurry or manure has been applied. In this paper, the effects of cattle manure application on soil erosion rates and runoff and on surface water pollution by faecal coliforms are analysed. Rainfall simulations at a rate of 70 mm h−1 were conducted in a sandy loam soil packed into soil flumes (2.5 m long×1 m wide) at a bulk density of 1400 kg m−3, with and without cattle slurry manure applied on the surface. For each simulation, sediment and runoff rates were analysed and in those simulations with applied slurry, presumptive faecal coliform (PFC) concentrations in the runoff were evaluated. The application of slurry on the soil surface appeared to have a protective effect on the soils, reducing soil detachment by up to 70% but increasing runoff volume by up to 30%. This practice implies an important source of pollution for surface waters especially if rainfall takes place within a short period after application. The concentrations of micro-organisms (presumptive faecal coliforms (PFCs)) found in water runoff ranged from 1.9×104 to 1.1×106 PFC 100 mL−1, depending on the initial concentration in the slurry, and they were particularly high during the first phases of the rainfall event. The result indicates a strong relationship between the faecal coliforms transported by runoff and the organic matter in the sediment.
The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Journal of Environmental Management 78 (1), 2006, © ELSEVIER.