Submitted to: USDA-ARS Research Notes
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/1/2009
Publication Date: 6/1/2009
Citation: Franzluebbers, A.J. 2009. Broiler litter: Waste or resource?. USDA-ARS Research Notes. JPC Research Note 16. 2009.
Technical Abstract: Since the turn of the 21st century, Georgia has ranked 1st in the country in the number of broiler chickens, with about 1.4 billion sold each year. At the Watkinsville Research Center, several field experiments have been and are currently being conducted in collaboration with scientists at the University of Georgia to study how broiler litter can be effectively utilized as an organic fertilizer to increase crop and pasture productivity, while at the same time, protect the environment from pollution. The impact of broiler litter fertilizer on pasture productivity, steer weight gain, and a variety of soil properties was assessed on a 30-acre site from 1994 to 1998 near Farmington GA. The hormones estradiol and testosterone are found in broiler litter. Whether they appear in water runoff, streams, and groundwater is being investigated in field studies. Pastures in 5 years of Coastal bermudagrass were direct-drill overseeded with Georgia-5 tall fescue beginning in the autumn of 1998. By overseeding this cool-season grass onto the existing warm-season grass, the grazing season could be extended from 140 days with bermudagrass only to 280 days with bermudagrass / tall fescue. A 50-acre experiment near Watkinsville was initiated in 2002 and continues today to explore how broiler litter may be interacting with endophyte infection of tall fescue pastures to affect production and environmental quality. Cattle performance and production are being measured throughout the year. A 1-acre experimental block of land with instrumentation to measure both surface runoff water and water drainage from 12 individual plots was established in the 1990s. Broiler litter application has been compared with inorganic fertilizer to determine their effects on yield of cotton and corn under two tillage practices, conventional (disk and harrow) and conservation (minimal tillage of the soil). Since 1999, more than a dozen farmers in Oconee and Greene Counties have been participating in a research evaluation of their management practices related to water quality in the Rose Creek and Greenbrier Creek watersheds. The WATER/FAIR project (Farmers Active in Research) has been determining the concentration of nitrogen and phosphorus in runoff from individual fields with small in-field runoff collectors (SIRCs).