Poultry Litter Research Project
Cotton producers in Darlington County are dealing with high input costs. One of the inputs that has really increased in the last 5 years is fertilizer costs. Since manure brokers have come into the county, farmers in an otherwise poultry deficit county, now has access to poultry litter from other locations.
In the third year on this project, we continue to look at using Poultry Litter in the fertility program in cotton production. We want to know can poultry litter fill the total fertility needs of a cotton crop? Will producers using poultry litter, produce as good or better yields, and also will he save money in his fertility program of the cotton crop? Cotton fields in three locations, on three separate farms in the county will be monitored using soil and plant tissue samples throughout the growing season. Visual observations will also be used in comparing the results of a litter versus fertilizer comparison repliated three times on these farms.
Project yields were good in the project again in 2005. Plots on average that were fertilized with poultry litter averaged more than plots fertilized with commercial fertilizer. The range of increase was from 15 to 144 lbs/acre. Costs for fertility ranged from $12.10 advantage for fertilizer, to a $35.00/acre cost savings using litter. At each location soil tests revealed different amount of fertilizer needed on each farm. One producer used litter out of his own poultry houses saving big time to charges of the broker bringing in litter across county lines for the other two farms. It is evident that having access to your own litter is a big advantage to a producer. There are still costs, but they are small compared to producers paying brokers for the use of poultry litter. These farmers will need a sharpe pencil to figure out if poultry litter is a viable option. As good a yields or better can be made, but is it cost effective for everyone? Good, smart producers will have to figure this out for themselves. Its not for everyone.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Darlington County cotton producers are now using poultry litter when they can get it, where before they reluctant to use this resource. Where they were using it on corn land, small grains and pastures, you can now add cotton fields to the list. There has been some growth in the county as far as the poultry industry goes, however there is ample space to utilize this by product from this growth in the poultry industry.
The results of this project was well received to not only Darlington County producers, but also to Lee County cotton producers who historically have had access to more poultry litter in their county over the past 15-20 years. This information was also presented on the national level at the Beltwide Cotton Conference in Jan 2006 and at the National County Agents Association meeting in Cincinatti, Ohio. This was a very good experience for a county agent from Darlington, SC.