Chicken litter provides organic alternative to synthetic fertilizers

Mar 03, 2011
Front row shows marigolds treated with synthetic controlled-release fertilizer, middle row shows chicken litter-based organic fertilizer and back row shows chicken litter-based organic fertilizer. Credit: Photo by Guihong Bi

Recent movements aimed at managing environmental impacts of agriculture have spurred interest in the development and use of organic and natural fertilizers for commercial applications. Many organic fertilizers are byproducts of livestock, fish, food, and other processing industries. In Mississippi, where the poultry industry produces more than 730 million broiler chickens each year, and annual chicken litter production is estimated at more than 730,000 tons, there is a naturally abundant supply of chicken litter available for fertilizer.

New research from scientists at Mississippi State University, in collaboration with the USDA-ARS Southern Agricultural Laboratory, investigated the effects of two non-composted broiler chicken litter-based organic fertilizers and one commonly used synthetic controlled-release fertilizer on marigold growth and flowering. The research study, published HortScience, indicated that some broiler litter-based fertilizers have the potential to be used as organic fertilizer sources for container production of marigolds in greenhouses.“Despite having lower nutrient concentrations than many synthetic fertilizers, similar broiler litter-based fertilizers have been shown to be effective plant fertilizers. For growers wishing to use these and other natural fertilizers in their production systems, the biggest question is how the fertilizers should be managed”, stated Guihong Bi, corresponding author of the study. “How litter-based fertilizer behaves in an actual greenhouse setting remains a significant question.”

The researchers conducted two experiments designed to evaluate the growth and flowering responses of greenhouse-grown French marigold (Tagetes patula L. ‘Janie Deep Orange’) to two non-composted broiler chicken litter-based organic fertilizers, 4–2–2 and 3–3–3, and one commonly used synthetic controlled-release fertilizer, 14–14–14. In both experiments, fertilizer 4–2–2 was applied at four rates of 1%, 2%, 4%, and 6% (by volume); 3–3–3 was applied at four rates of 1.34%, 2.67%, 5.34%, and 8.0% (by volume); and 14–14–14 was applied at rates of 0.99, 1.98, 3.96, and 5.94 kg/m3.

Results from the study indicated that broiler litter-based 4–2–2 and 3–3–3 have the potential to be used as organic fertilizer sources for container production of marigolds in greenhouses.

“For the organic fertilizer rates used in this study, in general, low to intermediate rates of 4–2–2 and 3–3–3 produced the highest plant growth index, shoot dry weight, number of flowers per plant, total flower dry weight, and root rating. Plants grown at high rates of 4–2–2 and 3–3–3 showed symptoms associated with excessive fertilization, including reduced plant growth, decreased root quality, and decreased number and dry weight of flowers.” According to the authors, the results are consistent with other studies that have shown excessive organic fertilizer depressed plant growth compared with lower fertility levels

The scientists advised growers to be cautious with the rate of fertilizer applied. “Because different crops may respond differently to these natural fertilizers, it is important for growers to test any new fertilizers before incorporating them into their production practices”, they noted.

Explore further: New paper calls for more carbon capture and storage research

More information: The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site: hortsci.ashspublications.org/c… t/abstract/45/9/1373

Provided by American Society for Horticultural Science

4 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fertilizers may not help poorest African farmers

Sep 24, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers have linked poverty in sub-Saharan Africa with poor soil health, but two new Cornell studies find that the recommended practice of applying more fertilizer may not help the poorest ...

Studying Fertilizers to Cut Greenhouse Gases

Nov 18, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have found that using alternative types of fertilizers can cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, at least in one part of the country. They are ...

Recommended for you

Dead floppy drive: Kenya recycles global e-waste

16 hours ago

In an industrial area outside Kenya's capital city, workers in hard hats and white masks take shiny new power drills to computer parts. This assembly line is not assembling, though. It is dismantling some ...

New paper calls for more carbon capture and storage research

20 hours ago

Federal efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must involve increased investment in research and development of carbon capture and storage technologies, according to a new paper published by the University of Wyoming's ...

Coal gas boom in China holds climate change risks

Aug 22, 2014

Deep in the hilly grasslands of remote Inner Mongolia, twin smoke stacks rise more than 200 feet into the sky, their steam and sulfur billowing over herds of sheep and cattle. Both day and night, the rumble ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Quantum_Conundrum
5 / 5 (1) Mar 03, 2011
I'm...stunned...

People used animal wastes as fertilizer for generations. Thought this sort of stuff was common knowledge...

Pardon the pun, but what other "crap" are these scientists studying?

Next they'll tell us wheat makes a good food source...