Researchers study value of chicken litter in cotton production

June 23, 2010

Chicken litter is much more valuable as a fertilizer than previously thought, according to an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) study showing its newfound advantages over conventional fertilizers.

Litter is a mixture of chicken manure and sawdust or other bedding material. Some cotton farmers in the Mississippi area are switching to chicken litter and away from standard inorganic, synthetic fertilizers. Many other farmers are interested in the possible economic benefits of using chicken litter, but are reluctant to switch without the numbers to back up their decision.

Now a study by ARS agronomist Haile Tewolde at the agency's Genetics and Precision Agriculture Research Unit (GPARU) at Mississippi State, Miss., and cooperators has provided those numbers. Tewolde did the research with GPARU soil scientist Ardeshir Adeli, two Mississippi State University colleagues, and Karamat Sistani, research leader at the ARS Animal Waste Management Research Unit in Bowling Green, Ky.

Previous studies only considered the economic value of the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in chicken litter, compared to that in synthetic fertilizers. Farmers know that chicken litter, an organic fertilizer, is a better soil conditioner than synthetic fertilizers, but have never had a way to assign a number to the value of that benefit.

In their study, Tewolde and colleagues figured the litter's value as a soil conditioner as an extra $17 per ton of litter. They calculated this by balancing the price tag of the nutrients in litter with its resulting higher yields, a reflection of its soil conditioning benefits.

They found that cotton yields peaked 12 percent higher with organic fertilizers, compared to peak yields with synthetic fertilizers. With all benefits factored in, they found that chicken litter has a value of about $78 a ton, compared to $61 a ton when figured by the traditional method.

The economic analyses also showed that farmers could further increase their profits by using less of either fertilizer than currently used for maximum yields--which is also good news for the environment.
-end-
This research was published in the Agronomy Journal.

ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).

United States Department of Agriculture - Research, Education and Economics

Related Fertilizer Articles from Brightsurf:

Why is fertilizer used in explosives? (video)
Over the last century, the compound ammonium nitrate has been involved in at least 30 disasters and terrorist attacks.

Glyphosate residue in manure fertilizer decrease strawberry and meadow fescue growth
A new study finds that glyphosate residue from herbicides in manure fertilizer decrease the growth of strawberry and meadow fescue as well as runner production of strawberry.

Plant protein discovery could reduce need for fertilizer
Researchers have discovered how a protein in plant roots controls the uptake of minerals and water, a finding which could improve the tolerance of agricultural crops to climate change and reduce the need for chemical fertilisers.

Urine reuse as fertilizer is not likely to transfer antibiotic resistance
Urine is a goldmine of useful substances that can be captured and converted into products such as fertilizer.

Urine fertilizer: 'Aging' effectively protects against transfer of antibiotic resistance
Recycled and aged human urine can be used as a fertilizer with low risks of transferring antibiotic resistant DNA to the environment, according to new research from the University of Michigan.

Palm oil: Less fertilizer and no herbicide but same yield?
Environmentally friendlier palm oil production could be achieved with less fertilizer and no herbicide, while maintaining profits.

Optimizing fertilizer source and rate to avoid root death
Study assembles canola root's dose-response curves for nitrogen sources.

Fertilizer feast and famine
Research led by the University of California, Davis identifies five strategies to tackle the two-sided challenge of a lack of fertilizer in some emerging market economies and inefficient use of fertilizer in developed countries.

Fertilizer plants emit 100 times more methane than reported
Emissions of methane from the industrial sector have been vastly underestimated, researchers from Cornell University and Environmental Defense Fund have found.

Where there's waste there's fertilizer
Scientists recycle phosphorus by combining dairy and water treatment leftovers.

Read More: Fertilizer News and Fertilizer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.