Poultry Litter Research Project
The request for a project extension was made and granted to look at some concerns found at the end of the on-farm project the previous year. One of the concerns was the fate of nitrates in the soil profile of the poultry litter compared to the commercial fertilizer. Were more nitrates passing through the soil profile in the poultry litter plots? Other concerns included in this extension were nutrient levels found in the different types of poultry litter. During the three years of the project, layer litter and broiler litter were primarily used in the project, but how did turkey litter compare to these other two sources?
This was accomplished easily with the SARE funds, simply by running more samples from different locations in the county. Samples from layer, broiler, and turkey operations were submitted and ran for a better handle on what the composition of the litters used.
Objectives of the Extension were twofold. One, were nitrates leaching through the soil profile more of a problem in the plots where poultry litter was applied, and if so, how much? More deep samples down to three feet were taken and sent to check nitrates of the two systems.
Two, what differences were there in the content of the different poultry litters used in Darlington County? Even though much work was done on this previously across the southeast, samples varied somewhat and producers wanted to know better what they were buying from the litter brokers. More nutrient analysis was done to get a better handle on the content of three types of poultry litter found in the county. Each type was linked to three different poultry integrators found in the Pee Dee region of the state.
The first objective was taken care of by setting up a similar scenario than the years past. What is apparent is that there is little difference in nitrate losses of the two systems. A nitrate is a nitrate and it doesn’t matter where the source of the nitrate comes from. I feel that the litter may have an advantage because nitrogen comes in different forms, ammonium and organic. The organic form breaks down at different rates according to weather conditions and soil situations. This kept nitrates from the litter although at slightly higher rates did not leach faster than the commercial fertilizer.
The second objective was also easily solved. This was accomplished easily with the SARE funds, simply by running more litter samples from different locations in the county. Samples from layer, broiler, and turkey operations were submitted and ran for a better handle on what the composition of the litters used. The results gave real world numbers for Darlington County. This was important to growers using litter from brokers that were becoming more commonplace in the county.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The project extension came in handy to answer a couple of questions that the three year project brought up and hopefully answered the two issues. Having some funds left after the project was really a good problem to have, and I appreciated being able to have the extension to look at these problems. Growers now have a better idea of what the different types of poultry litter have nutritional wise. Previously a grower that did not have poultry, had no idea what was different about broiler, layer, or turkey litter and what it all meant in regard to growing row crops using this byproduct of the poultry industry. I was also able to answer questions from more environmentally sensitive growers or others wondering what the litter would be doing to the farms in the county.