Historically, poultry wastes have been used as a soil amendment and source of fertilizer in agronomic row cropping systems. Poultry litter (PL) is often preferred over other animal manures as a result of its high nutrient content in comparison with other animal manures. Typical PL will have the following nutrient ranges: N from 2.1% to 6%, phosphorus (P) from 1.4% to 9%, potassium (K) from 0.8% to 6.2%, calcium (Ca) from 0.8% to 6.1%, magnesium (Mg) from 0.2% to 2.1%, and sulfur from 0.1% to 0.8% on a dry weight basis (Mitchell et al., 1995).
Land application was the predominant disposal method for PL in the past. However, as a result of increased environmental awareness, PL is now under strict new state and federal regulations concerning disposal methods with respect to non-point source pollution and other environmental concerns (Ribaudo, 2003). Because leached nitrate-N from landscape fertilization programs can contaminate drinking water, it is important to identify landscape fertilization practices that provide excellent plant growth while minimizing N lost to leaching.
Although new regulations place limits on frequency and rate of application of PL, a fair amount of PL can still be land-applied; however, management of available lands for application is now a concern (Brown et al., 2005; Wolfe and Humphries, 2007). The horticulture industry is now the fastest growing agricultural sector in Alabama (AAES, 2009) and with more and more landscape and nursery operations in business, the green industry could provide a new beneficial avenue of disposal for excess manure. Research is underway to find alternative uses for CPL in different agricultural sectors and to establish areas where PL could provide the best economic and environmental benefit.
Considering the high nutrient content of PL and the accessibility of the product, especially in the intense production areas of the southeastern United States, horticulture professionals, farmers, and turfgrass managers could begin using PL as an alternative or supplement to costly inorganic fertilizers. Inorganic fertilizer cost is increasing, whereas U.S. fertilizer production is decreasing. Because natural gas is the primary raw material used to produce ammonia, the rise in U.S. gas prices has led to a 35% decline in U.S. ammonia production capacity and a 44% decrease in output between years 2000 and 2006 (Wen-yuan, 2007). National average fertilizer prices increased 113% between 2000 and 2007 as a result of increases in N costs (Wen-yuan, 2007). During this 7-year period, the price of ammonia, the main source of N in fertilizer production, increased 130% and the price of urea, the primary solid N fertilizer used in the United States, rose 127% (Wen-yuan, 2007). As a result of price increases in inorganic fertilizer sources, the nutrients in PL are more valuable than ever.
There is potential for the use of organic manure-type products in the landscape and homeowner sector. Increased awareness of environmental impacts from the manufacture and use of inorganic fertilizer sources has caused many homeowners to seek more environmentally friendly products. Organically based products are becoming more popular, especially with urban consumers (Altland et al., 2002; Dimitri and Greene, 2002). Recent trends such as “Going Green” have made the use of organic products more desirable and marketable.
Poultry litter application has been shown to be beneficial as a fertilizer in row cropping systems (Burmester et al., 1991; Porch et al., 1990) and also has been shown to improve growth in roses, woody ornamentals, annuals, and bermuda grass production (Feagley et al., 2005; Reeder et al., 1992; Warren and Safley, 1990). In two experiments by Altland et al. (2003), growth of ‘Magestic Giants White’ pansy (Viola ×wittrockiana) and Telstar Purple dianthus (Dianthus chinensis L.) was compared when fertilized with granular water-soluble fertilizers, controlled-release fertilizers, and an organically based fertilizer composed of recycled newspaper amended with PL at similar rates. Results indicated that plants grown using the organically based fertilizer grew as well or better than those using inorganic fertilizer treatments; however, the organic fertilizer caused elevated levels of total N in soil water in Expt. 2. However, composting PL before application could reduce N leaching. Use of CPL as fertilizer in urban landscapes could provide an environmentally sound means of disposal for poultry producers as well as a beneficial use for CPL when used as a replacement for inorganic fertilizers.
Research is needed to understand how the type of fertilizer used will affect plant growth and nutrient leaching. The objective of this study was to evaluate CPL as a fertilizer source for bedding plants at various rates in comparison with commercially available inorganic fertilizers for two commonly used landscape annual bedding species, ‘Quartz Scarlet’ verbena and ‘Celebrity Red’ petunia, in regard to plant growth and nutrient leaching.
AAES 2009 Economic impact of Alabama's green industry: Green industry growing Spec. Rept. No. 7. Ala. Agri. Exp Sta. Auburn University, AL
Altland, J.E., Gilliam, C.H., Edwards, J.H., Keever, G.J., Fare, D.C. & Sibley, J.L. 2002 Fertilizer formulation and method of application influence bedding plant growth and nitrogen leaching in urban landscapes J. Environ. Hort. 20 204 213
Altland, J.E., Gilliam, C.H., Edwards, J.H., Keever, G.J., Fare, D.C. & Sibley, J.L. 2003 Fertilization methods affect growth, color and nitrogen leaching of winter annuals in landscape beds J. Environ. Hort. 21 99 107
Brown, D.G., Johnson, K.M., Loveland, T.R. & Theobald, D.M. 2005 Rural landuse trends in the conterminous United States, 1950–2000 Ecol. Appl. 15 1851 1863
Burmester, C.H., Wood, C.W. & Mitchell, C.C. 1991 Broiler litter promising as nitrogen source for cotton Highlights of Agr. Res. Auburn Univ. 38 3
Dimitri, C. & Greene, C. 2002 Recent growth patterns in the U.S. organic foods market Agr. Inform. Bul. No. 777. Economic Research Service USDA
Environmental Protection Agency 2009 Drinking water contaminants 4 June 2009. <http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw000/contaminants/index.html>.
Feagley, S.E., Grichar, W.J. & Nerada, J.D. 2005 Use of chicken litter for bermuda grass production in south Texas J. Sustain. Agr. 25 67 90
Mitchell, C.C., Donald, J.O. & Martin, J. 1995 The value and use of poultry waste as fertilizer Ala. Coop. Ext. Sys. 3 July 2007. <http://hubcap.clemson.edu/blpprt/Aub-44.html>.
Moore P.A. Jr, Daniel, T.C., Sharpley, A.N. & Wood, C.W. 1995 Poultry manure management: Environmentally sound options J. Soil Water Conserv. 50 321 327
Porch, D.W., Gilliam, C.H., Brown, J.E., Adrian, J.L. & Eason, J.T. 1990 Broiler litter vs commercial fertilizer produces earlier, larger, tomatoes Highlights of Agr. Res. No. 37:5. Auburn University AL
Reeder, J.A., Gilliam, C.H., Mitchell, C.C. & Donald, J.O. 1992 Bedding plant response to incorporated broiler litter. Proc. Southern Nur. Assn. Res. Conf Vol. 37 298 299
Ribaudo, M. 2003 Managing manure: Clean water act regulations create imperative for livestock producers 12 June 2011. <http://www.ers.usda.gov/amberwaves/Feb03/pdf/feature- managing%20manure.pdf>.
Sharpley, A.N., Syers, J.K. & Tillman, R.W. 1983 Transport of ammonium and nitrate nitrogen in surface runoff from pasture as influenced by urea application J. Water Air Soil Pollut. 20 425 430
Sims, G.K., Ellsworth, T.R. & Mulvaney, R.L. 1995 Microscale determination of inorganic nitrogen in water and soil extracts Commun. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 26 303 316
Soil Moisture Equipment Co 2007 Operating instructions: 1900 soil water samplers 1 Aug. 2007. <http://soilmoisture.com/pdf/1900.pdf>.
Vervoort, R.W., Radcliffe, D.E., Cabrera, M.L. & Latimore M. Jr 1998 Nutrient losses in surface and subsurface flow from pasture applied poultry litter and composted poultry litter Nutr. Cycl. Agroecosyst. 50 287 290
Warren, S.L. & Safley, C.D. 1990 Use of compost poultry litter in the horticulture industry Proc. Natl. Waste Manage. Symp Auburn University Printing Service 144 149 Oct. 1990
Wen-yuan, H. 2007 Tight supply and strong demand may raise U.S. nitrogen fertilizer prices 24 Jan. 2008. <http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/November07/Findings/TightSupply.htm>.
Wolfe, K. & Humphries, G. 2007 Landscape and nursery utilization of composted manure College. of Agr. and Environ. Sci. Rpt. 07-09 University of Georgia Athen, GA