Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DEVELOPING BENEFICIAL USES OF AGRICULTURAL, INDUSTRIAL, AND MUNICIPAL BYPRODUCTS

Location: Crop Systems & Global Change

Title: Distribution of plant nutrient elements and carbon in particle size fractions of broiler litter ash

Authors
item Codling, Eton
item Eickhoff, Barbara -

Submitted to: Open Agriculture Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 13, 2012
Publication Date: December 30, 2012
Citation: Codling, E.E., Eickhoff, B. 2012. Distribution of plant nutrient elements and carbon in particle size fractions of broiler litter ash. Open Agriculture Journal. 6:48-52.

Interpretive Summary: An estimated 10.8 million tons of broiler litter and 3.0 million tons of turkey litter were produced in the United States in 2009. Poultry litter is a mixture of manure, bedding material (e.g., wood chips, sawdust, or straw), feathers, and spilled feed. Poultry litter contains high levels of calcium, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and is often applied as a fertilizer on fields close to poultry houses. Repeated poultry litter application to these fields can increase soil phosphorus to levels in excess of plant requirements. Excess phosphorus can runoff and or leach into surface and ground water resulting in alga bloom. An alternative to land application of poultry litter is burning as fuel in generating electricity. Ash from this process has been used as a fertilizer after sieving less than 0.5 inches with the larger fraction being discarded in landfills. The objective of this study was to determine the elemental composition of size fractions of broiler litter ash samples produced using a variety of burn durations and temperatures. Broiler litter ash samples were collected from a biomass gasification test plant and sieved into five size fractions. Nutrients in the ash were extracted using Mehlich-1 solution. In most cases, nutrient concentrations were higher in the finer fractions while carbon concentration was higher in the coarser (greater than 0.02 inches) two fractions. The amount of P in the coarsest fraction ranged from 15 to 25 percent of the total extractable phosphorus in the ash. With such high phosphorus content in the coarse fraction, there is a potential of phosphorus leaching when this fraction is disposed of in landfills. To prevent this, we recommend the crushing of the coarser fractions so that all of the ash is utilized as fertilizer and soil amendment.

Technical Abstract: An estimated 10.8 million tons of broiler litter and 3.0 million tons of turkey litter were produced in the United States in 2009. Poultry litter is a mixture of manure, bedding material (e.g., wood chips, sawdust, or straw), feathers, and spilled feed. Poultry litter contains high levels of Ca, N, P, and K, and is often applied as a fertilizer on fields in close proximity to poultry houses. Repeated poultry litter application to these fields can increase soil P to levels in excess of plant requirements, resulting in potential environmental risk. An alternative to land application of poultry litter is the use of it as a fuel in generating electricity. Ash from this process has been used as a fertilizer after sieving to < 1.27 cm, with the larger fraction being discarded in landfills. The objective of this study was to determine the elemental composition of size fractions of broiler litter ash samples produced using a variety of burn durations and temperatures. Ten 2-kg broiler litter ash samples were collected from a biomass gasification test plant and sieved into five size fractions. Nutrients in the ash were extracted using Mehlich-1 solution. In most cases, nutrient concentrations were higher in the finer two fractions while C concentration was higher in the coarser (>0.5 mm) two fractions. Nevertheless, the amount of P in the coarsest fraction ranged from 15 to 25 percent of the total extractable phosphorus in the ash. With such high P content in the coarse fraction there is a potential of nutrient leaching when this fraction is disposed of in landfills. To prevent this, we recommend the crushing of the coarser fractions so that all of the ash is utilized as fertilizer and soil amendment.

Last Modified: 8/27/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page