Poultry Litter as Fertilizer

Poultry litter can generate more profit for both poultry and cotton farmers. It is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus – both important crop nutrients.

This is also good for the environment as applying poultry litter to the soil recycles some of the tons of litter generated annually by poultry operations.

Poultry litter includes chicken manure, spilled feed, excess feathers and other poultry-house materials.

Haile Tewolde, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) researcher, is studying how to maximize revenue through poultry litter.

Tewolde and his colleagues applied poultry litter to cotton at seven different rates on two farms by scattering the litter with a commercial fertilizer spreader. They measured cotton lint yields for three years at one farm and five years at another. They also factored in the costs for the litter and the market price of the cotton to determine optimal rates for earning a profit.

The researchers found that the most profitable rate is not the same as the rates that produced the highest yields because of the current low cost of cotton. Farms with 9,000 to 12,000 pounds of litter applied per acre achieved maximum yields, but profits were highest at only 7,000 pounds applied per acre.

The results highlight the poultry litter’s capabilities as fertilizer and give growers specific recommendations to avoid applying more litter than needed as it could pollute waterways.

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