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Subsurface manure applicator at OSU Manure Science Review
Ohio Correspondent

REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — Ohio growers will be able to see a new piece of equipment, the ARS Poultry Litter Subsurfer at the Ohio State University’s Manure Science Review Aug. 6. The subsurfer applies poultry litter under the surface of perennial pasture and other no-till systems.

“What we’re trying to do is trying to provide farmers a way to use nutrients more efficiently,” said Tom Pote, a USDA soil scientist who worked on developing the subsurfer, “to try to take those nutrients and keep them where they belong, on the crop that we’re trying to grow, instead of stimulating a crop of algae in the lakes.”
The subsurfer has a patented auger system that opens trenches, somewhat like a no-till planter.

The original was built from an old White planter, which Pote and his team modified.

“The openers are very similar to a double disc opener,” he explained. “It has a leading coulter that slices the soil to give it direction. Then the double disc opens a trench and, while it is held open, the litter drops down a shoot between those two double discs and into the trench. Immediately a closing wheel comes behind to close it back up.

“So what you have is parallel bands of litter in trenches about three inches deep. The trenches are about 9.5 inches apart. We’re looking at possibly building another prototype that widens that out to 15 inches.”

Early experiments with the subsurface injections were done by hand, testing if the method would work. Now BBI International has developed the prototype subsurfer for demonstration and further testing, Pote said.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation invested in the technology because of its critical water quality situation.

Prototypes are currently being tested at several universities in the Chesa-peake Bay area.

The subsurfer has been found to lower nutrient runoff and ammonia emissions by some 90 percent, while increasing forage yields, a USDA report stated. It has also been found to lower phosphorous runoff and ammonia loss and increase corn yields.
“I wouldn’t call it a magic bullet but it definitely has a real place. It could help a lot of folks,” Pote said. “Drawbacks – it is much slower than a surface application. You can do a surface application in a 40-foot-wide swath by just slinging it out, but that is a very non-uniform application.

“This puts on a very uniform application and you can put it exactly where you want it. It does take more time because it only does an eight-foot-wide pass.”

The Manure Science Review invites producers, agency personnel and extension educators from around Ohio to attend, said Amanda Douridas, OSU extension educator with Union and Champaign Counties. “We provide demonstrations or current technology with information relevant to manure applicator and nutrient use today,” she added.

It will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hord Livestock Farm south of Bucyrus. The nearest street address is 1961 State Route 294, Marion.

The location of the event is about a quarter-mile west of that address, on the north side of the road and will be marked with signs.

The subsurfer demonstration is between 1-3 p.m., Douridas said. Registration for the Review, which includes a continental breakfast and lunch, is $30 per person by July 29 and $35 per person after that date. The registration form can be downloaded at

For information, contact Mary Wicks at 330-202-3533 or