Defining the feasibility and environmental impact of applying poultry litter to forests of the Western Gulf region

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $14,520.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Region: Southern
State: Louisiana
Principal Investigator:
Michael Blazier
Louisiana State University AgCenter


  • Additional Plants: native plants, trees, ornamentals


  • Crop Production: forestry, nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers, application rate management, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: extension, focus group, on-farm/ranch research, study circle, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, cooperatives, feasibility study
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, soil stabilization, wildlife
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Poultry production is integral to rural economies of the Western Gulf region of the US, but disposal of its waste material is increasingly problematic. Poultry litter has historically been applied to agricultural land as an inexpensive fertilizer, but long-term litter applications can degrade soil and water quality. Consequently, legal application rates and the agricultural land area available for litter application are expected to decline. Applying poultry litter to the abundant, economically significant southern pine plantations of the region may be an environmentally sound and economically beneficial means of litter disposal and utilization. These forests are often nutrient-deficient and owned by private individuals with small landholdings and/or low capital to invest in fertilizer. Litter application could enhance income of these landowners by substantially increasing wood and fiber yields, and the high nutrient uptake potential of forest vegetation may prevent negative effects of litter application on soil, water, and wildlife. To comprehensively explore the environmental impacts and economic feasibility of applying litter to forests, this planning project will identify crucial researchable questions and outreach deficiencies regarding this issue by engaging diverse regional stakeholders in a series of workshops and focus groups. An interdisciplinary team of researchers, extension specialists, forest landowners, and poultry producers will be formed to generate a full grant proposal based on issues that arise during workshops and focus groups.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Identify and prioritize the environmental and economic issues that are critical to application of poultry litter in forests and deficiencies in parlaying research information about poultry litter application to forest managers, forest landowners, and poultry producers of the region. This will be done by soliciting input from regional forest landowners, poultry producers, researchers, extension specialists, and other stakeholders. Particular attention will be given to actively seeking input from traditionally underserved landowners in the region.

    2. Organize an inter-disciplinary team of researchers, extension specialists, forestry consultants, forest landowners, and poultry producers to develop a set or researchable questions and outreach protocol based on issues that arise from Objective 1. This will be done through workshops, conference calls, and on-site interviews with landowners interested in boosting forest productivity and poultry producers interested in new avenues of waste disposal.

    3. Develop a SARE Research and Education grant proposal that will outline a research project and outreach programs based on the issues that arise from achieving objective 2. The project will potentially produce: (a) economically feasible poultry application protocol for pine forests of the Western Gulf, (b) broad understanding of the ecological sustainability of applying litter to forests, and (c) methods for efficiently teaching application concepts and methodology to forest landowners, managers, and poultry producers.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.