Tracking poultry litter phosphorus: Threat of accumulation?

Jan 28, 2009

The Delmarva Peninsula, flanking the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, is home to some 600 million chickens. The resulting poultry manure and some of the chicken house bedding material is usually composted and then spread onto croplands as a fertilizer.

Phosphorus-31 nuclear magnetic resonance (31P NMR) and other methods of soil analysis have previously shown that two forms of phosphorus - orthophosphate and phytate (aka myoinositol hexakis phosphate) - dominate composted poultry litter. Although much is known about the transport of orthophosphate in soils, very little is known about the fate of phytate, a compound that is indigestible by poultry and abundant in poultry litter. With six phosphate groups per molecule phytate has the potential to be a significant player in non-point phosphorus pollution.

As part of her doctoral dissertation research at Yale University, scientist Jane Hill worked with scientist Barbara Cade-Menun at Stanford University to investigate the fate of phytate in crop soils on the Delmarva Peninsula. Specifically, Hill and Cade-Menun measured changes in phosphorus forms along a spatial transect on two active poultry farms. Using 31P NMR and supporting analytical methods, they found that phytate concentration was high in manures (about 50% of total P) but was not retained in crop soils and ditch sediments, where concentrations dropped to 2 to 15% of the total P. A corresponding increase in soil and sediment orthophosphate was also measured.

The study concluded that phytate does not accumulate in soils, but rather, is most likely to be hydrolyzed in situ by microorganisms. Results of the study were published in the January-February issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality.

Research in the respective groups of Drs. Hill and Cade-Menun is ongoing. Dr. Hill is focused on assessing the timing and controls on phytate hydrolysis in soils. Dr. Cade-Menun is currently a nutrient cycling scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at the Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Station, focusing on the impacts of agricultural nutrients on the environment.

View the paper abstract at jeq.scijournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/38/1/130 .

Source: Soil Science Society of America

Explore further: Sea floor conditions mimicked for drilling platforms

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Using biochar to boost soil moisture

Nov 08, 2011

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are leading the way in learning more about "biochar," the charred biomass created from wood, other plant material, and manure.

Using ground covers in organic production

Aug 30, 2011

Studies by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists indicate that organic farmers who need to periodically amend their soils with compost after planting can still control weeds -- and hold down costs -- by using fabric ...

Arsenic in field runoff linked to poultry litter

Aug 16, 2010

Fields amended with poultry litter can accumulate significant levels of arsenic, according to studies by USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and associates. These findings provide key information about the ...

Recommended for you

Sea floor conditions mimicked for drilling platforms

1 hour ago

Mobile jack-up drilling platforms used in the oil and gas industry are at risk of rejection before installation due to their use in harsher environments and deeper waters—but University of WA scientists ...

Drought may take toll on Congo rainforest, study finds

18 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new analysis of NASA satellite data shows Africa's Congo rainforest, the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world, has undergone a large-scale decline in greenness over the past decade.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Sea floor conditions mimicked for drilling platforms

Mobile jack-up drilling platforms used in the oil and gas industry are at risk of rejection before installation due to their use in harsher environments and deeper waters—but University of WA scientists ...

New breast cancer imaging method promising

The new PAMmography method for imaging breast cancer developed by the University of Twente's MIRA research institute and the Medisch Spectrum Twente hospital appears to be a promising new method that could ...

Research proves nanobubbles are superstable

The intense research interest in surface nanobubbles arises from their potential applications in microfluidics and the scientific challenge for controlling their fundamental physical properties. One of the ...

Using antineutrinos to monitor nuclear reactors

When monitoring nuclear reactors, the International Atomic Energy Agency has to rely on input given by the operators. In the future, antineutrino detectors may provide an additional option for monitoring. ...