Submitted to: Journal of Environmental Quality
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/1/2003
Publication Date: 1/1/2004
Citation: Gilmour, J.T., Koehler, M.A., Cabrera, M.L., Szajdak, L., Moore Jr, P.A. 2004. Alum treatment of poultry litter: Decomposition and nitrogen dynamics. Journal of Environmental Quality. 33:402-405. Interpretive Summary: The poultry industry results in a major economic benefit to several areas in the USA, however, there is concern that land application of poultry litter to recycle nutrients can lead to impaired surface and ground water quality. Treating poultry litter with alum has received considerable attention as an economically viable best management practice for reducing ammonia emissions from poultry houses and reducing phosphorus runoff from fields fertilized with litter. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of alum treatment of broiler litter on decomposition and nitrogen release from the litter under laboratory conditions. The study showed that there were few differences in decomposition of alum-treated and normal litter, indicating that microorganisms can use alum-treated litter as well as normal litter.
Technical Abstract: While the poultry industry is a major economic benefit to several areas in the USA, land application of poultry litter to recycle nutrients can lead to impaired surface and ground water quality. Amendment poultry litter with alum has received considerable attention as a method of economically reducing ammonia volatilization from poultry house and soluble phosphorus in runoff waters. The objective of this study was to characterize the effect of alum on broiler litter decomposition and N dynamics under laboratory conditions. Litter that had been amended with alum in the poultry houses after each of the first four of five flock cycles (exp. 1) and litter that had been amended with alum after removal from a poultry house after the third flock cycle (exp. 2) were compared with unamended litter in separate studies. The litters in Exp. 1 were surface applied to simulate application to grasslands, while the litters in Exp. II were incorporated to simulate application to conventionally tilled corps. The only statically significant difference in decomposition due to alum occurred early in Exp. II and the differences were small. The only statistically significant differences in net N mineralization, soil inorganic N and Soil ammonium in either experiment was found in Exp. I after 70 d of incubation where soil inorganic N was significantly greater for the alum treatment. Thus, alum had little effect on decomposition and N dynamics.