Researchers study value of chicken litter in cotton production

Jun 23, 2010

Chicken litter is much more valuable as a fertilizer than previously thought, according to an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) study showing its newfound advantages over conventional fertilizers.

Litter is a mixture of chicken manure and sawdust or other bedding material. Some cotton farmers in the Mississippi area are switching to chicken litter and away from standard inorganic, . Many other farmers are interested in the possible economic benefits of using chicken litter, but are reluctant to switch without the numbers to back up their decision.

Now a study by ARS agronomist Haile Tewolde at the agency's Genetics and Precision Agriculture Research Unit (GPARU) at Mississippi State, Miss., and cooperators has provided those numbers. Tewolde did the research with GPARU soil scientist Ardeshir Adeli, two Mississippi State University colleagues, and Karamat Sistani, research leader at the ARS Animal Waste Management Research Unit in Bowling Green, Ky.

Previous studies only considered the economic value of the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in chicken litter, compared to that in synthetic fertilizers. Farmers know that chicken litter, an organic fertilizer, is a better soil conditioner than synthetic fertilizers, but have never had a way to assign a number to the value of that benefit.

In their study, Tewolde and colleagues figured the litter's value as a soil conditioner as an extra $17 per ton of litter. They calculated this by balancing the price tag of the nutrients in litter with its resulting higher yields, a reflection of its conditioning benefits.

They found that cotton yields peaked 12 percent higher with organic fertilizers, compared to peak yields with synthetic fertilizers. With all benefits factored in, they found that chicken litter has a value of about $78 a ton, compared to $61 a ton when figured by the traditional method.

The economic analyses also showed that could further increase their profits by using less of either fertilizer than currently used for maximum yields--which is also good news for the environment.

Explore further: Ideology prevents wheat growers from converting to more profitable methods, new study shows

More information: This research was published in the Agronomy Journal.

Provided by United States Department of Agriculture

not rated yet
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 ...

Improving swine waste fertilizer

Jul 08, 2008

Swine production generates large amounts of waste. While this waste contains nutrients that may serve as fertilizer when applied to agricultural fields, the ratio of nutrients in the waste is different than what a crop requires.

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 ...

ARS Study Helps Farmers Make Best Use of Fertilizers

Jun 10, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new way to make topographic maps with radar can help farmers divert more of their resources to the highest-yielding parts of their fields, according to an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) ...

Recommended for you

A vegetarian carnivorous plant

Dec 19, 2014

Carnivorous plants catch and digest tiny animals in order and derive benefits for their nutrition. Interestingly the trend towards vegetarianism seems to overcome carnivorous plants as well. The aquatic carnivorous bladderwort, ...

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.