Poultry Litter Research Project
Three selected farms in Darlington County are being used to compare the difference in cotton grown conventionally with commercial fertilizers, and cotton grown with poultry litter.
The 2004 growing season was good and provided adequate rain when the crops needed it, making two good years in a row for collecting data. Due to one of the cooperators not finding a source of litter, the project had only two trials rather than the three that were planned in 2004. The project’s success in 2003 led to more producers seeking litter for their fields so that litter became a scarce resource in the county.
For the second year in a row yields for the poultry litter treated cotton were greater than the yields from cotton treated with traditional fertilizer.
Once again there was no difference in water quality between the two treatments. Nutrients were taken up by the cotton on the poultry litter plots just as well as they were taken up on the traditional plots.
There will be another year of data collected for the 2005 season.
The objective for 2004 was to build on the success of 2003. I did not want the positive data from 2003 to look like a fluke. I wanted consistency and I believe I got it.
Despite not being able to get litter for the third farm everything else went as planned; the rains came and the cotton grew. Having one third less work load allowed me to do a better job of sampling. I really feel good about the data I got from the 2003 soil and tissue sampling. Everything worked smoothly because the farmers were familiar with what we were doing. The year 2005 will provide a third year of data if the weather is good.
After this growing season I plan to put together all the data to share with farmers both inside and outside my county. I will also present the information at the Beltwide Cotton Conference.
The yields for the 2004 growing season were 1242lbs/acre for the litter plots and 1157lbs/acre for the fertilizer plots. Once again, besides producing more cotton per acre, the costs were lower in the litter plots than in the traditional fertilizer plots.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
More producers are looking to use poultry litter in their operation if they can get it. With the cost of not only fuel, but also fertilizer going up, this trend will only continue.
I am constantly getting calls looking for information on using litter, from not only farmers in my county, but surrounding counties as well.