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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: EFFICIENT MANAGEMENT AND USE OF ANIMAL MANURE TO PROTECT HUMAN HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY

Location: Food Animal Environmental Systems Research Unit

Title: Effect of Alum Treatment on the Concentration of Total and Ureolytic Microorganisms in Poultry Litter

Authors
item Cook, Kimberly
item Rothrock, Michael
item Warren, Jason
item Sistani, Karamat
item Moore, Philip

Submitted to: Journal of Environmental Quality
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 18, 2008
Publication Date: November 15, 2008
Citation: Cook,K.L., Rothrock Jr,M.J., Warren,J.G., Sistani,K.R., Moore Jr,P.A. 2008. Effect of Alum Treatment on the Concentration of Total and Ureolytic Microorganisms in Poultry Litter. Journal of Environmental Quality. 37:2360-2367

Interpretive Summary: Production of ammonia by microorganisms in poultry litter has negative implications including decreased poultry performance, malodorous emissions, and loss of poultry litter value as a fertilizer. Despite the fact that this is a microbial process, little is known about how the microbial population and in particular how ammonia-producing (ureolytic) organisms respond in poultry litter and to litter amendments such as alum (Al2(SO4)3•14H2O). The goals of this study were to monitor the change in total bacterial and fungal populations and urease-producing microorganisms present in untreated litter or litter treated with 10% alum. When treated with alum, the bacterial population was reduced by 50% and bacterial urease producers were reduced by 90% within four weeks. In contrast, the fungal population was three orders of magnitude higher in alum-treated poultry litter than in untreated litter. The shift in pH inhibits bacterial populations but selects for fungal organisms that may be responsible for the mineralization of organic nitrogen in alum-treated litters.

Technical Abstract: The microbial mineralization of urea and uric acid results in the production of ammonia, which can lead to decreased poultry performance, malodorous emissions, and loss of poultry litter value as a fertilizer. Despite the fact that this is a microbial process, little is known about how the microbial population and in particular how ammonia-producing (ureolytic) organisms respond in poultry litter and to litter amendments such as alum (Al2(SO4)3•14H2O). The goals of this study were to monitor the temporal change in total bacterial and fungal populations and urease-producing microorganisms present in untreated litter or litter treated with 10% alum. Quantitative, real-time PCR (QRT-PCR) was used to target the bacterial 16S rDNA gene, the fungal 18S rDNA gene or the urease gene of bacterial and fungal ammonia producers in a poultry litter incubation study. In untreated poultry litter, there was a dense total (2.8 ± 0.8 X 1010 cells g-1 litter) and ureolytic (2.8 ± 1.3 X 108 cells g-1 litter) bacterial flora. When treated with alum, the bacterial population was reduced by 50% and bacterial urease producers were reduced by 90% within four weeks. In contrast, the fungal population was three orders of magnitude higher in alum-treated poultry litter than in untreated litter (3.5 ± 0.8 X 107 cells g-1 litter and 5.5 ± 2.5 X 104 cells g-1 litter by week 16, respectively). The shift in pH inhibits bacterial populations but selects for fungal organisms that may be responsible for the mineralization of organic nitrogen in alum-treated litters.

Last Modified: 8/22/2014