Development of Fractionation and Treatment Systems for Poultry Litter to Enhance Utilization and Reduce Environmental Impact

1990 Annual Report for LS90-025

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1990: $141,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1992
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $251,370.00
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:
William C. Merka
University of Georgia

Development of Fractionation and Treatment Systems for Poultry Litter to Enhance Utilization and Reduce Environmental Impact


The poultry industry is a major agricultural industry in the southeastern United States. It generates more than 25 percent of the agricultural income of Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. To increase efficiency, this industry has a tendency to concentrate itself. Production concentration generates more poultry waste than can be safely applied to cropland without environmental degradation. Valuable nutrients are also lost.

This study is being conducted to determine more efficient methods of poultry waste utilization in cropping and livestock feeding systems. Preliminary work has shown that fractionation will recover litter material for subsequent reuse in poultry houses and will produce a fine material with improved handling qualities and increased nutrient concentrations. This study will evaluate the economic potential of litter fractionation for reuse of the coarse material in poultry production and use of the concentrated fines for crop production and ruminant feeding.

Pelletized litter was applied at various rates for corn production compared to ammonium nitrate application. Tests are continuing to provide for a slow release of nitrogen from the pellets. If poultry feathers can be solubilized, mixed with litter and then repolumerized prior to pelleting, the rapidly available nitrogen component can be bound in the keratin matrix, thereby reducing the release rate.

Based on separation studies, a Georgia company has been started whereby separated litter has been utilized to produce either a pelletized range cube for cattle feed of fertilizer. Separation of material has provided a sufficient volume of product to be pelletized for production to be economically viable.


(1) Develop a simple, efficient and economical method to separate litter into coarse and fine fractions.

(2) Evaluate the reuse potential of the coarse fraction in broiler houses as litter; this would involve testing the coarse fraction for the presence of important microbial pathogens (bacteria and viruses) and toxicants (metals, pesticides and synthetic organic compounds such as PCBs), and development of a treatment system to eliminate residual pathogens.

(3) Evaluate the use of the fine fraction as a more concentrated fertilizer for crop production; this would include the use of commercial equipment for accurate application, and assessment of production parameters and environmental impact. This fraction will also be thoroughly tested for the toxic elements and compounds, and pathogenic microorganisms discussed above for the coarse fraction.

(4) Compare the economic value of this material and system to conventional commerical fertilizer application methods.

(5) Establish extension education programs through publications, seminars, plot demonstrations, and field days to promote adoption of efficient litter use systems