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Manuresheds: Redesigning crop-livestock agriculture for sustainable intensification

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posted on 2024-02-13, 14:01 authored by Sheri Speigal, Peter Kleinman, Dinku M. Endale, Ray Bryant, Curt Dell, Sarah Goslee, Robert J. Meinen, Colton Flynn, John Baker, Dawn Browning, Greg McCarty, Shabtai Bittman, Jennifer Carter, Michel Cavigelli, Emily Duncan, Prasanna Gowda, Xia Li, Guillermo E. Ponce-Campos, Raj Cibin, Maria Silveira, Doug Smith, Dan K. Arthur, Qichun Yang, Caryn Nezat, Bruce Vandenberg

Nutrient recycling is fundamental to sustainable agricultural systems, but few mechanisms exist to ensure that surplus manure nutrients from animal feeding operations are transported for use on nutrient-deficient croplands. As a result, manure nutrients concentrate in locations where they can threaten environmental health and devalue manure as a fertilizer resource. This data set is from a study advances the concept of the “manureshed” – the lands surrounding animal feeding operations onto which manure nutrients can be redistributed to meet environmental, production, and economic goals. Manuresheds can be managed at multiple scales, for example, on farms with both animals and crops, among animal farms and crop farms within a county, or even among animal farms and crop farms in distant counties. With a focus on redistribution among counties, we classified the 3109 counties of the contiguous United States by their capacity to either supply manure phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) from confined livestock production (“sources”) or to assimilate and remove excess P and N via crops (“sinks”) [see data for N tonnes, P tonnes, N kg/ha, P kg/ha]. Manure nutrient source counties were identified in 40 of the 48 states, with a substantial concentration in the southern US. Source counties for manure P greatly outnumbered source counties for manure N (390 vs. 100), and 99 of the 100 manure N source counties were also source counties for manure P. Conversely, sink counties for manure N outnumbered sink counties for manure P (2766 vs. 2317). We used the P balances of the source and sink counties to delineate four manuresheds dominated by various combinations of confined hog, poultry, dairy, and beef industries [see data for Manuresheds (tonnes)]. The four manuresheds differed in the transport distances needed to assimilate excess manure P from their respective source areas (from 147 ± 51 km for a beef dominated manureshed to 368 ± 140 km for a poultry dominated manureshed), highlighting the need for systems-level strategies to promote manure nutrient recycling that operate across local, county, regional, and national scales.

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Data contact name

Spiegal, Sheri

Data contact email


Agricultural Research Service

Temporal Extent Start Date



  • irregular


  • Not specified

Geographic Coverage


Geographic location - description

US Counties

ISO Topic Category

  • boundaries
  • environment
  • farming

Ag Data Commons Group

  • Jornada Experimental Range
  • Long-Term Agroecosystem Research

National Agricultural Library Thesaurus terms

sustainable agricultural intensification; humans; ecosystems; Anthropocene epoch; land use change; geographical distribution; biogeochemical cycles; air pollution; water pollution; air; crops; fertilizer application; Long-Term Agroecosystem Research Network; livestock; United States; nutrients; phosphorus; nitrogen; cropland

OMB Bureau Code

  • 005:18 - Agricultural Research Service

OMB Program Code

  • 005:040 - National Research

Primary article PubAg Handle

Pending citation

  • No

Public Access Level

  • Public

Preferred dataset citation

Spiegal, S., et al. (2020). Manureshed delineation via analysis of county-level data from IPNI-NuGIS and USDA-NASS (2012).