Manure Manager

Features Applications Poultry
Researchers study chicken litter on cotton


June 23, 2010
By Manure Manager

Topics

June
23, 2010 – Chicken litter is more valuable as a fertilizer than previously
thought, according to an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) study showing its
newfound advantages over conventional fertilizers.


June
23, 2010 – Chicken litter is more valuable as a fertilizer than previously
thought, according to an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) study showing its
newfound advantages over conventional fertilizers.

Litter
is a mixture of chicken manure and sawdust or other bedding material. Some
cotton farmers in the Mississippi area are switching to chicken litter and away
from standard inorganic, synthetic fertilizers. Many other farmers are
interested in the possible economic benefits of using chicken litter, but are
reluctant to switch without the numbers to back up their decision.

Now,
a study by ARS agronomist Haile Tewolde at the agency's Genetics and Precision
Agriculture Research Unit (GPARU)
at Mississippi State University, MS, and cooperators has
provided those numbers. Tewolde did the research with GPARU soil scientist
Ardeshir Adeli, two Mississippi State University colleagues, and Karamat
Sistani, research leader at the ARS Animal Waste Management Research Unit in Bowling
Green, KY.

Previous
studies only considered the economic value of the nitrogen, phosphorus and
potassium in chicken litter, compared to that in synthetic fertilizers. Farmers
know that chicken litter, an organic fertilizer, is a better soil conditioner
than synthetic fertilizers, but have never had a way to assign a number to the
value of that benefit.

In
their study, Tewolde and colleagues figured the litter’s value as a soil
conditioner as an extra $17 per ton of litter. They calculated this by balancing
the price tag of the nutrients in litter with its resulting higher yields, a
reflection of its soil conditioning benefits.

They
found that cotton yields peaked 12 percent higher with organic fertilizers,
compared to peak yields with synthetic fertilizers. With all benefits factored
in, they found that chicken litter has a value of about $78 a ton, compared to
$61 a ton when figured by the traditional method.

The
economic analyses also showed that farmers could further increase their profits
by using less of either fertilizer than currently used for maximum yields –
which is also good news for the environment.