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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

2006 Annual Report

1.What major problem or issue is being resolved and how are you resolving it (summarize project aims and objectives)? How serious is the problem? Why does it matter?
Poultry litter is an excellent organic fertilizer that has a relatively high content of nitrogen and phosphorus. However, there is concern that offsite movement of nutrients from land-applied poultry litter is impacting the nation's surface and ground water quality. Our research is addressing when and where runoff occurs in the landscape and how pasture and animal waste management can be modified to maintain pasture productivity and minimize adverse environmental impacts from poultry litter. Of particular concern is phosphorus runoff from fields fertilized with poultry litter; however, other emerging issues include atmospheric emissions from manure and the potential of contaminants (i.e., hormones, heavy metals and antibiotic residuals) in runoff water. Excessive phosphorus runoff can cause excessive algal blooms, which can lead to taste and odor problems in municipal drinking water supplies. More than 7 billion poultry are produced annually in the U.S., and runoff from poultry litter is believed to be one of the major sources of phosphorus in runoff water. We are conducting research to define how nutrients and other contaminants move in both surface and sub-surface waters, and we are developing best management practices (BMPs) for farmers to reduce the amount of phosphorus and other contaminants in runoff from poultry manure. Our research is also focusing on the measurement of ammonia emissions from manure and the development of new technology to reduce these emissions.

The project has the following specific objectives; (1) determine the factors that affect phosphorus chemistry and transport in soil, water, and manure, (2) determine the long-term impacts of manure management strategies on soil, water, and air resources, (3) develop and evaluate best management practices to reduce non-point Phosphorus pollution, (4) determine ammonia emission rates from poultry litter and develop best management practices to control ammonia loss, (5) determine the factors that influence surface runoff within watersheds, and (6) evaluate the sources and occurrence of nutrients, organic wastewater compounds, and antibiotic residuals at the watershed-scale.

This research is covered under the Manure and Byproduct Utilization National Program Plan (NP 206), incorporating three components (nutrients, air quality and pathogens) of the program. This project focuses mainly on the Nutrient Component and Focus Areas 1 (Animal Feeding and Management), 2 (Innovative Technology for the Collection, Storage and Treatment), 3 (Management Tools for Indexing and Evaluating Nutrient Fate and Transport, and 4 (Farming Systems and Practices for Managing Manure in an Efficient and Balanced Fashion). Other components of this research include the Atmospheric Emissions Component Focus Areas 2 (Emission Factors from Livestock Facilities) and 3 (Control Technologies and Strategies for Emissions) and Pathogens Component Focus Areas 2 (Fate and Transport of Pathogens), 3 (Pharmaceutically Active Chemicals) and 4 (Treatment Technologies). We will also be conducting research on non-point and point source pollution within watersheds, which is related to the Water Quality and Management National Program (NP 201). Our research has also began to focus more on ammonia emissions from animal manure, which is related to the Air Quality National Program (NP 203).

If the U.S. poultry industry is to remain competitive and not be crippled by adverse legislative dictates, it is critical that the issue of managing excess phosphorus runoff and ammonia emissions associated with poultry litter be resolved. Effective, economical, and environmentally-acceptable methods to prevent phosphorus runoff from lands fertilized with poultry litter and ammonia emissions must be developed to assure the continued economic viability of the poultry industry's operations. State and federal agencies are developing phosphorus water-quality criteria for streams and reservoirs in our region, possibly leading to the development of total maximum daily loads. This future development may also limit land application of poultry manure, underscoring the need to develop farm-level management strategies and best management practices which will allow farmers to continue to use poultry litter as a fertilizer while minimizing adverse environmental impacts in surface waters.

2.List by year the currently approved milestones (indicators of research progress)
Year 1 (FY 2005)

Initiate three-year study to measure ammonia emissions from broiler litter in four tunnel-ventilated houses and following land application.

Year 2 (FY 2006)

USDA/NRCS will accept pasture renovation as a BMP.

Continue three-year study to measure ammonia emissions from broiler litter in four tunnel-ventilated houses and following land application.

Continue 13-year study on the effects of grazing management practices on phophorus runoff with other ARS scientist at Booneville, Arkansas.

Year 3 (FY 2007)

The Arkansas P Index will be revised.

Continue 3-year study to measure ammonia emissions from broiler litter in four tunnel-ventilated houses and following land application.

The research on poultry litter at Fayetteville, AR, is coordinated with ARS poultry litter research throughout the southeastern U.S. by holding a conference at a central ARS location in the southeast.

Year 4 (FY 2008)

Complete 3-year study to measure ammonia emissions from broiler litter in four tunnel-ventilated houses and following land application.

4a.List the single most significant research accomplishment during FY 2006.
Tested the efficacy of a ammonia scrubber for poultry houses: Ammonia emissions from animal rearing facilities may negatively impact air quality. Scientists from the Poultry Production and Product Safety Research Unit in Fayetteville, AR, developed and tested an ammonia scrubber that removes ammonia and dust from air exhausted from poultry facilities. This system utilizes a dilute alum solution to captured ammonia nitrogen that would otherwise be lost to the atmosphere. This nitrogen can be utilized by the farmer to grow crops. The aluminum in the solution has the added benefit of reducing soluble phosphorus in soils, which will reduce phosphorus runoff. ARS has applied for a patent for this technology. NP206, Atmospheric Emissions Component

4b.List other significant research accomplishment(s), if any.
Phosphorus Runoff From Pastures: Phosphorus runoff from pastures fertilized with animal manure may negatively impact water quality. Scientists at the Poultry Production and Product Safety Research Unit, Fayetteville, AR, completed two 10-year studies on the effect of adding aluminum sulfate to poultry litter on phosphorus chemistry in soils and phosphorus runoff. Results from a small plot study showed P leaching was much lower from alum-treated litter than normal litter, while phosphorus uptake by plants was unaffected. Phosphorus runoff losses from small watersheds fertilized with normal poultry litter were 340% higher than that from alum-treated litter. These studies indicate that this best management practice is a long term solution to phosphorus runoff and leaching losses from poultry litter.

4c.List significant activities that support special target populations.

5.Describe the major accomplishments to date and their predicted or actual impact.
All accomplishments made under this project are fully consistent with relevant milestones listed in the Project Plan, and with the relevant research components as defined in the National Program 206 Action plan. This accomplishment contributes to Objective 5.2 in the ARS Strategic Plant, which is to provide science-based knowledge and education to improve quality and management of soil, air, and water resources. One of our biggest goals of our project plan and the National Program 206 action plan is to develop best management practices that reduce phosphorus runoff. We have discovered that alum (aluminum sulfate), when added to poultry litter in commercial houses, greatly lowers ammonia levels in the houses and results in significantly healthier birds. Birds grown in alum-treated houses weigh more, they utilize their feed better, there is less bird death, and heating costs during winter months are significantly lower (due to less ventilation required to remove ammonia vapors). The use of alum in poultry houses is very cost effective; producers make an additional two dollars for every dollar spent. Very detailed studies over several years have shown that alum-treated poultry litter applied to pastures reduced phosphorus runoff by 75% compared with untreated litter. Field trials conducted in 15 states and on more than 30 million chickens proved this technology to be cost-effective and that its widespread utilization by the poultry industry will have great effects in reducing phosphorus pollution of the environment. In the past year, it is estimated that more than 600 million broiler chickens will be produced on alum-treated litter which will undoubtedly result in less pollution of our nation's soils and waters, in addition to facilitating the production of healthier chickens at lower cost. Other benefits of treating litter with alum include a reduction in the number of pathogens, such as Campylobacter, on the birds; lower heavy metal and estrogen runoff from fields fertilized with litter, and higher yields from crops fertilized with alum (to higher N contents in the litter). We also developed the Phosphorus Index for Pastures which is used by the state of Arkansas to write nutrient management plans and the Protective Rate of poultry litter and commercial fertilizers for those farmers who don't have nutrient management plans in place.

6.What science and/or technologies have been transferred and to whom? When is the science and/or technology likely to become available to the end-user (industry, farmer, other scientists)? What are the constraints, if known, to the adoption and durability of the technology products?

7.List your most important publications in the popular press and presentations to organizations and articles written about your work. (NOTE: List your peer reviewed publications below).
Moore Jr., P.A., Edwards, D.R. 2006. Long-term effects of treating poultry litter with alum on phosphorus availability in soils. Better Crops. 90(3):16-20.

Review Publications
Haggard, B.E., Delaune, P.B., Smith, D.R., Moore Jr., P.A. 2005. Nutrient and B17-estradiol loss in runoff water from various poultry litters. Journal of the American Water Resources Association. Paper No. 03178. p. 245-256.

Haggard, B.E., Vadas, P.A., Smith, D.R., Delaune, P., Moore Jr., P.A. 2005. Effect of poultry litter to water ratios on extractable phosphorus content and its relation with runoff phosphorus concentrations. Biosystems Engineering. 92(3):409-417.

Smith, D.R., Moore Jr, P.A., Miles, D.M. 2005. Soil extractable phosphorus changes with time after application of fertilizer: 1. litter from poultry fed modified diets. Soil Science. 170(7):530-542.

Smith, D.R., Moore Jr, P.A. 2005. Soil extractable phosphorus changes with time after application of fertilizer: 2. manure from swine fed modified diets. Soil Science. 170(8):640-651.

Yuan, Y., Bingner, R.L., Theurer, F.D., Moore Jr, P.A., Rebich, R.A. 2005. Evaluation of the ANNAGNPS phosphorus component. Proceedings ASAE Annual International Meeting, July 17-20, 2005, Tampa, Florida. Paper No. 052169, 23 pp.

Pote, D.H., Kingery, W.L., Aiken, G.E., Han, F.X., Moore Jr, P.A. 2006. Incorporating granular inorganic fertilizer into perennial grassland soils to improve water quality. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 61(1):1-7.

Haggard, B.E., Moore Jr., P.A., Brye, K.R. 2005. Effect of slope on runoff from a small variable-slope box. Journal of Environmental Hydrology. 13:Paper 25. Available:

Delaune, P.B., Moore Jr., P.A., Lemunyon, J.L. 2006. Effect of chemical and microbial amendments on phosphorus runoff from composted poultry litter. Journal of Environmental Quality. 35:1291-1296.

Yuan, Y., Bingner, R.L., Theurer, F.D., Rebich, R. A., Moore, P.A. 2005. Phosphorus component in AnnAGNPS. Transactions of the ASAE. 48(6): 2145-2154.

Moore Jr., P.A., Edwards, D.R. 2005. Long-term effects of poultry litter, alum-treated litter and ammonium nitrate on aluminum availability in soils. Journal of Environmental Quality. 34:2104-2111.

Last Modified: 3/2/2015
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