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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Soil Dynamics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #346290

Research Project: Enhancing Production and Ecosystem Services of Horticultural and Agricultural Systems in the Southeastern United States

Location: Soil Dynamics Research

Title: Influence of poultry litter on crop productivity under different field conditions: a meta-analysis

item LIN, YARU - Auburn University
item Watts, Dexter
item VAN SANTEN, EDZARD - Auburn University
item CAO, GUANQUN - Auburn University

Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/17/2018
Publication Date: 4/12/2018
Publication URL:
Citation: Lin, Y., Watts, D.B., Van Santen, E., Cao, G. 2018. Influence of poultry litter on crop productivity under different field conditions: a meta-analysis. Agronomy Journal. 110:807-818. https://doi.10.2134/agronj2017.09.0513.

Interpretive Summary: Numerous studies have shown that poultry litter (PL) can be used as a nutrient source for crop production. However, there has been conflicting views as to poultry litter’s influence on increasing soil fertility, plant nutrient uptake, and losses to the environment (ex. contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and N and P losses with runoff). Thus, a comprehensive review of 134 studies from the scientific literature was evaluated using meta-analysis (statistical methods used to combine results from multiple studies to identify common effects). Plant P and K uptake greatly improved with PL use when compared to inorganic fertilizers, while no improvements were observed for N uptake. Poultry litter was more effective at increasing soil CEC, pH, total C, total N, P, K, Ca, Mg, Cu, and Zn concentrations than inorganic fertilizer. These results also showed that PL could potentially increase CO2 and N2O fluxes from soil, but decrease NO emissions. Surface applications of PL litter increased N and P losses in runoff, while subsurface banding PL lowered losses. Overall, this review showed that PL could effectively enhance plant nutrient uptake and improve soil fertility. Poultry litter applications to soil could also potentially increase nutrient losses to the environment depending management.

Technical Abstract: Interest in using poultry litter (PL) as a nutrient source for crop production has increased in recent years. Utilization of PL can increase soil residual nutrients, thereby potentially increasing soil sustainability and crop productivity. Conversely, PL additions may increase the fate and transport of nutrients to the environment. This study aimed to elucidate the influence of PL on plant nutrient uptake, soil fertility, and environmental issues as compared to inorganic fertilizer (IF) using a meta-analytic assessment. The synthesis was based on 134 studies (3362 comparisons). Effects of PL on plant macro- and micronutrients varied depending on the evaluated plant tissues. Leaves and stems generally had lower nutrient concentrations than reproductive parts. PL influenced plant nutrient uptake, with a slightly negative effect being observed for N but significant positive effects for P and K. Positive effects on soil fertility were also observed, with PL significantly increasing CEC, pH and soil C, total N, P, K, Ca, Mg, Cu, and Zn concentrations compared to IF. Moreover, our results showed that PL application significantly increased CO2 and N2O fluxes, but decreased NO emission. Surface applications of PL significantly increased N and P loss in runoff, while subsurface-banded PL resulted in significantly lower losses. Overall, PL can be an effective nutrient source to enhance crop yield, increase plant nutrient uptake, and improve soil fertility.