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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Poultry Litter Ash a Potential Fertilizer Source for Agricultural Crops

Authors
item Codling, Eton
item Chaney, Rufus
item Sherwell, John - MD DEPT/NATURAL RESOURCES

Submitted to: Environmental Quality
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 1, 2001
Publication Date: May 1, 2002
Citation: CODLING, E.E., CHANEY, R.L., SHERWELL, J. POULTRY LITTER ASH A POTENTIAL FERTILIZER SOURCE FOR AGRICULTURAL CROPS. ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY. 2002.

Interpretive Summary: The Maryland Water Quality Act (1998) will impose restrictions on poultry litter application to soils with excessive soil test P by the year 2005. One alternative for use or disposal of litter under consideration is burning poultry litter to generate electricity and produce a smaller amount of ash. A pot study was conducted 1) to determine the effectiveness of poultry litter ash (PLA) compared to potassium phosphate as a potential P source for wheat and 2) investigate the interaction of calcium carbonate (lime) application with P source on nutrient availability to wheat. Lime application significantly increased wheat yield, but there were no significant differences in yields between the two P sources. Tissue P concentrations were higher in plants treated with PLA compared to potassium phosphate. Tissue Cu, Zn, Mn, Fe , Ni and Cd concentrations from the PLA treatments were no higher than those from potassium phosphate and control treatments. Soil pH, water-soluble-P and Mehlich 3 extractable-P concentrations were higher in the PLA amended soil than in the control and potassium phosphate treatments at the end of the experiment. This demonstrated that PLA can be used as an alternative fertilizer for wheat both in limed and unlimed soils. The low levels of water-soluble-P and metals in the soils and the low metals concentrations in the tissue further demonstrate that PLA should pose no threat to the environment when used as a fertilizer.

Technical Abstract: Maryland will impose restrictions on poultry litter application to soils with excessive soil test P by the year 2005, requiring new approaches for use or disposal of litter. One alternative under consideration is burning poultry litter to generate electricity and produce a smaller amount of dry ash which could be transported further for economic use. The ash contains high levels of total P and K, and should be a useful fertilizer, but the availability of these nutrients for crops is unknown. This study 1) compared the effectiveness of poultry litter ash (PLA) to that of KH2PO4 as a potential P source and 2) investigated the interaction of PLA with calcium carbonate (lime) for growth of wheat on strongly acidic soils which limit P phytoavailability. Two very acidic (pH 4.25 and 4.48), low P soils were obtained; half of each soil was limed to pH 6.5. PLA or KH2PO4 were mixed with each limed and unlimed soil series at 0, 39 and 78 kg P ha-1 and dplanted with "Renville" wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Lime increased wheat yield, but there were no significant differences between the two P sources. Tissue P concentrations were higher in plants treated with PLA than KH2PO4. Tissue Cu, Zn, Mn, Fe , Ni and Cd concentrations from the PLA treatments were no higher than those from KH2PO4 and control treatments. Soil pH, water-soluble-P and Mehlich-3 extractable-P concentrations were higher in the PLA amended soil than in the control and KH2PO4 treatments at the end of the experiment. We conclude that PLA can be used as a P fertilizer for wheat both in limed and un-limed soils. The low levels of WSP and metals in the soils and the low metals concentrations in the wheat shoots further demonstrated that PLA should pose no threat to the environment when used as a fertilizer.

Last Modified: 10/21/2014
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