Development of a Dry Poultry Litter

  • Environmental Quality


    Development of a Dry Poultry Litter Incorporation Technology to Protect Air and Water Quality


    NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Roughly 800,000 tons of poultry litter is generated yearly by approximately 600 million broiler chickens, and most of this litter is applied to the surface of no-till soils where nitrogen readily volatilizes as ammonia phosphorus (P) and washes off to surface water bodies, causing significant odor emissions to occur. For the past two years, UMES scientists have worked with the first generation of a USDA-ARS technology to test the feasibility of the subsurface application of dry poultry litter to soils on Delmarva, pioneering its introduction to the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This technology can significantly lessen the environmental impacts of poultry litter application while increasing crop yields due to better nutrient use efficiency. This project seeks to refine this technology and transfer it to local farmers by improving its design so it will not cause increased leaching losses of P under certain soil conditions. Thus, this project represents the highest priority to local agricultural and environmental concerns, as it offers an alternative to the surface application of litter to no-till soils with minimum tillage and without exacerbating other environmental concerns.

    Based upon recent research at UMES with the first generation of subsurface application technology, researchers project that the second generation subsurface applicator, termed the Subsurfer, will reduce NH3 and odor emissions by at least 90% near the time of application. In addition, the researchers expect the Subsurfer to lower nutrient (P) and arsenic (As) (which is fed to chickens) transfers in surface runoff by up to 60%. Erosion should be at least 75% lower. Because the researchers found that leaching losses of P can be exacerbated with subsurface application, they have identified several approaches to curtailing these losses with simple modifications to the technology. Ultimately, data from this project will be used to provide appropriate credits for the Subsurfer in the areas of agronomic recommendations; site assessment (e.g., P Index); and eventually, nutrient trading.

    The state of Maryland offers an income tax subtraction modification to help farmers offset costs associated with buying certain types of conservation tillage equipment. This causes the Subsurfer to be an attractive and viable alternative to conventional methods of applying litter to soils as a source of economical fertilizer. This project will transfer the Subsurfer technology to farmers and contract applicators. UMES' research with the first generation of subsurface applicator technology suggests that farmers using the technology in corn production can significantly increase yields (up to 35 bushels/acre) due to better utilization of N. The researchers will also develop an odor research team at UMES that will help tackle a primary concern of the urban/agricultural interface. The project will expand UMES' environmental teaching capacity for students by creating faculty expertise in odor science and by developing associated teaching curricula using Penn State University's curriculum in this area as a starting point. Finally, the project expands the number of minority scientists entering the workforce.

    FUNDING:  NIFA - Capacity Building

    CONTACT:  Dr. Arthur Allen, Associate Research Director and Associate Professor, Agriculture, alallen@umes.edu