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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: Treating poultry litter with aluminum sulfate (alum)

Author
item Moore, Philip

Submitted to: Government Publication/Report
Publication Type: Government Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: April 5, 2012
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: This publication is a factsheet on how to treat poultry litter with alum (aluminum sulfate) to reduce ammonia emissions and phosphorus runoff. Most of the nitrogen excreted from broiler chickens is lost to the atmosphere as ammonia before the manure is removed from the chicken houses. Our research has shown that adding alum to the manure reduces ammonia levels in poultry facilities, resulting in heavier birds, better feed conversion and lower mortality. Lower ammonia emissions also result in better air quality. Alum additions have also been shown to greatly reduce phosphorus runoff, which helps improve water quality. For typical broiler operations alum should be applied at rate of 0.1-0.2 pounds per bird, which is approximately 1-2 ton per house per flock, assuming 20,000 birds per house. Alum is an acid, so it converts ammonia to ammonium, which is not subject volatilization (evaporation). The aluminum in alum also reacts with phosphorus in the litter to make an insoluble aluminum phosphate compound that is far less susceptible to runoff or leaching. Ammonia losses from alum-treated litter has been shown to be 70% lower than normal litter. Phosphorus runoff has been shown to be reduced by 75% with alum. Benefits to poultry production and reduced energy costs, due to reduced ventilation requirements in cooler months, make this best management practice cost effective. Dry or liquid alum can be used. When applying dry alum, applicators should wear goggles for eye protection, gloves, and a dust mask to avoid breathing alum. There are two types of liquid alum; normal liquid alum (48.5% alum) and acid alum (36.5% alum). To add the equivalent of one ton of dry alum, 370 gallons of liquid alum or 512 gallons of acid alum is needed.

Technical Abstract: This is a USDA/ARS factsheet on how to treat poultry litter with aluminum sulfate (alum) to reduce ammonia emissions. Over half of the nitrogen excreted from chickens is lost to the atmosphere as ammonia before the manure is removed from the poultry houses. Research has shown that additions of alum to the reduces ammonia levels in poultry facilities, resulting in heavier birds, better feed conversion and lower mortality. Alum additions have also been shown to greatly reduce phosphorus runoff. For typical broiler operations alum should be applied at rate of 0.1 to 0.2 pounds per bird, which is approximately 1-2 ton per house per flock, assuming 20,000 birds per house. Alum is an acid, so it converts ammonia to ammonium, which is not subject volatilization. The aluminum in alum also reacts with phosphorus in the litter to make an insoluble aluminum phosphate compound that is far less susceptible to runoff or leaching. Ammonia losses from alum-treated litter has been shown to be 70% lower than normal litter. Phosphorus runoff has been shown to be reduced by 75% with alum. Benefits to poultry production and reduced energy costs, due to reduced ventilation requirements in cooler months, make this best management practice cost effective. Dry or liquid alum can be used. When applying dry alum, applicators should wear goggles for eye protection, gloves, and a dust mask to avoid breathing alum. There are two types of liquid alum; normal liquid alum (48.5% alum) and acid alum (36.5% alum). To add the equivalent of one ton of dry alum, 370 gallons of liquid alum or 512 gallons of acid alum is needed.

Last Modified: 8/22/2014