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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: MANURE MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE AIR AND WATER QUALITY

Location: Poultry Production and Products Safety Research

Title: Improving the sustainability of animal agriculture by treating manure with alum

Author
item Moore, Philip

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: July 15, 2010
Publication Date: August 8, 2011
Citation: Moore Jr., P.A. 2011. Improving the sustainability of animal agriculture by treating manure with alum. In: He, Z., editor. Environmental Chemistry of Animal Manure. Hauppauge, NY; Nova Science Publishers, Inc. p. 349-381.

Interpretive Summary: The most significant environmental problems associated with animal manure management are ammonia emissions and phosphorus (P) runoff. During the past two decades research has shown that a simple topical application of aluminum sulfate (alum) to manure can greatly reduce the magnitude of both of these problems. The objective of this paper was to provide a literature review of the research on treating manure, such as poultry litter, with alum. Additions of alum to poultry litter have been shown to improve air quality by reducing ammonia emissions into the atmosphere. Improvements in poultry production due to alum include heavier chickens, which have better feed conversion and lower mortality. These production benefits make this practice cost-effective. Alum additions to manure also reduce bacterial pathogens in litter responsible for both poultry diseases (dermititus) and foodborne illness in humans (Campylobacter and Salmonella). Propane and electricity use have also been reduced when alum is used due to decreased ventilation requirements in cooler months. Phosphorus runoff and leaching from manure are also significantly lower when alum is used. Furthermore, water quality is improved by alum because it reduces soluble organic C, estrogen, and heavy metals (As, Cu, and Zn) in runoff water. Crop yields have been shown to be greater with alum-treated manure when compared to normal manure because of the additional N present as a result of lower ammonia emissions. As a result of these benefits, approximately one billion broilers are being grown in the U.S. each year with alum. In conclusion, alum treatment of manure appears to be a very sustainable practice, since it is a cost-effective BMP that improves air and water quality, while improving both animal and crop production.

Technical Abstract: Two of the biggest environmental problems associated with animal manure management are ammonia emissions and phosphorus (P) runoff. Research conducted during the past two decades has shown that a simple topical application of aluminum sulfate (alum) to manure can greatly reduce the magnitude of both of these problems. The objective of this chapter was to provide a literature review of the research on treating poultry litter and other types of manure with alum. Additions of alum to animal manure, such as poultry litter, have been shown to improve air quality by significantly reducing ammonia emissions into the atmosphere. Improvements in poultry production in houses treated with alum (heavier chickens, which have better feed conversion and lower mortality) make this practice cost-effective. Alum additions to litter also reduce bacterial pathogens in litter responsible for both poultry diseases (dermititus) and foodborne illness in humans (Campylobacter and Salmonella). Energy use (propane and electricity) is also reduced when alum is used due to decreased ventilation requirements in cooler months. Phosphorus runoff and leaching from manure are also significantly reduced when alum additions are made. Furthermore, water quality is improved by alum because it reduces soluble organic C, estrogen, and heavy metals (As, Cu, and Zn) in runoff water. Crop yields have been shown to be greater with alum-treated manure when compared to normal manure because of the additional N present as a result of lower ammonia emissions. As a result of these benefits, approximately one billion broilers are being grown in the U.S. each year with alum. In conclusion, alum treatment of manure appears to be a very sustainable practice, since it is a cost-effective BMP which improves air and water quality, while improving both animal and crop production.

Last Modified: 4/17/2014
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