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: Current residential development research is a poor foundation for sustainable development

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

Study provides detailed projections of coral bleaching

4 hours ago

While research shows that nearly all coral reef locations in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico will experience bleaching by mid-century, a new study showing in detail when and where bleaching will occur shows ...

Germany restricts fracking but doesn't ban it

10 hours ago

The German cabinet drew up rules Wednesday on the hitherto unregulated technology of "fracking" in Germany, narrowly restricting its use, but stopping short of an outright ban.

Life in the poisonous breath of sleeping volcanos

11 hours ago

Researchers of the University Jena analyze the microbial community in volcanically active soils. In a mofette close to the Czech river Plesná in north-western Bohemia, the team around Prof. Dr. Kirsten Küsel ...

Eggs and chicken instead of beef reap major climate gains

12 hours ago

Beef on our plates is one of the biggest climate villains, but that does not mean we have to adopt a vegan diet to reach climate goals. Research results from Chalmers University of Technology show that adopting ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.