Taking the cow piss out of our waterways

Griffith University PhD student Amanda Neilen has discovered how to stop cow urine running off our paddocks into rivers and creeks.

If carbon is added to paddocks where cows urinate it can reduce the runoff of nitrogen into waterways, meaning more nutrients for pasture growth and cleaner creeks and rivers.

“Cow’s urine is high in nitrogen and this can accumulate in the soil and then leach or wash off into waterways,” Amanda says.

High levels of nitrogen in our waterways cause the algal blooms that can choke the life out a river or smother a reef. Loss of nitrogen from farm paddocks means there are also fewer nutrients available for plant and animal growth.

Amanda’s research discovered that grass-covered soil was three times less likely to have nitrogen runoff compared to bare soil.

“I found that by adding carbon to the soil it stimulated the activity of the soil microbes and stopped the nitrogen from leaching away,” Amanda says.

Having more nitrogen available in the soil means more grass. This means a farmer can carry more cows in each paddock.

Banner image credit: Econnect Communication