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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Subsurface Application of Poultry Litter
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Problem:

Throughout the southeastern United States, poultry production has become the major source of income for many small family farms.  The poultry litter (manure mixed with bedding material) provides an excellent source of crop nutrients, and is used primarily to fertilize perennial pastures and other no-till systems. The common practice of spreading poultry litter on the surface of pastures allows valuable nutrients to evaporate or be carried by storm runoff into nearby streams and lakes.   

 

Objectives:

·  Identify management methods that protect water quality and increase production efficiency by retaining litte     nutrients in the soil where they are available to crop plants. 

·  Develop technology to make these methods a practical management option for agricultural producers.    

   

 

Accomplishments:  

A research team at Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center has shown that applying dry poultry litter in shallow

(3-inch deep) trenches below the soil surface instead of spreading it on the surface can:

  • Improve water quality by preventing more than 90% of nutrient losses in surface runoff.
  • Decrease litter application rates by preventing ammonia nitrogen loss to the atmosphere.
  • Decrease runoff volume by increasing water-holding capacity of the soil.
  • Increase crop yield and quality by retaining nutrients and water in the soil.
  • Control nuisance odor problems often associated with surface litter applications.

 

To mechanize the subsurface application technique, the ARS research team developed the Poultry Litter Subsurfer, a prototype that can apply five tons of dry poultry litter under the surface of perennial pastures and other no-till systems before reloading.  Novel features of the patented ARS Poultry Litter Subsurfer include:

  • An innovative auger system to crush and distribute dry, untreated poultry litter.
  • Precise control of litter application rates, including very low rates not previously feasible.
  • No-till technology that minimizes damage to soil structure and perennial crops.

Impact:

THIS NEW TECHNOLOGY CAN POTENTIALLY IMPROVE AIR QUALITY, WATER QUALITY, AND PRODUCTIVITY ON MILLIONS OF ACRES.

Dr. Dan Pote

Soil Scientist

 

Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center

6883 So. St. Hwy 23

Booneville, AR  72927

P: 479-675-3834 ext. 344

E: dan.pote@ars.usda.gov

 


Last Modified: 2/21/2014
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