Increasing the Value of Poultry Litter – An Overview
When used as a fertilizer source, poultry litter is a valuable commodity as it is recognized as an excellent source of plant nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) and organic matter. Litter that retains a high nitrogen content is especially valuable. Based on current inorganic nitrogen costs, broiler litter is currently valued at $105 per ton based on its nitrogen content alone. When its value as a soil amendment with trace minerals and organic matter is considered, the value of poultry litter increases even more.
Nitrogen (N) is excreted from birds in the form of uric acid in the manure. Inorganic forms of N such as ammonium nitrate (NH4-N) and nitrate nitrogen (NO3-N) account for roughly 14% of the total litter N. The remaining 86% of the total litter N is in the form of organic N.
Applying PLT litter treatment at placement binds ammonia and improves flock performance while also greatly increasing the fertilizer value of poultry litter. PLT increases litter N content by reducing ammonia volatilization, increasing ammonium nitrogen and forming ammonium sulfate. Ammonium sulfate is widely used in the US as a safe fertilizer.
For every one hundred pounds of PLT® applied to a house, 55 pounds of ammonium sulfate is generated. This formation of ammonium sulfate is non reversible. Therefore, the nitrogen in the litter is not released as the pH increases (Ullman, et al., 2004). Over time, this can double the ammonium nitrogen content of your poultry litter. The use of PLT® for ammonia binding will also improve the N:P ratio of poultry litter due to the retention of ammonia as ammonium sulfate.
PLT contains no heavy metals or other substances that adversely affect plant growth, and the sodium created as part of the acid-base reaction has been shown to have no adverse effects on crops (Liu, Hsiao, and Quick, 1995; Csaba, 1975). In fact, there are existing products on the market that use sodium hydrogen sulfate as a soil additive to improve crop production. Plus, PLT is the only EPA Safer Choice litter amendment on the market for enhanced worker safety at every step.
- Poultry litter is recognized as an excellent source of plant nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) and organic matter.
- PLT increases litter N content by reducing ammonia volatilization, increasing ammonium nitrogen and forming ammonium sulfate.
- Within two weeks of application, PLT has been converted into natural products found in litter. Litter naturally contains high levels of sodium and sulfate.
Litter N may be found in the form of ammonia, which is detrimental to both bird and worker health. As the only EPA Safer Choice amendment, PLT® litter treatment is commonly used in poultry houses to reduce harmful ammonia emissions, offering a better in-house environment. PLT works by lowering litter pH, creating a neutralizing effect on the ammonia released; it accomplishes this task by releasing hydrogen ions (H+) that will attach to ammonia to form ammonium which further reacts with sulfate ions (SO4) to form ammonium sulfate (NH4)2 SO4, a water soluble nitrogen fertilizer. These reactions reduce ammonia losses from poultry litter, which can result in an increase in litter N content.
For every 100 lbs of PLT® applied to poultry litter, 14.5 lbs of ammonia is chemically bound as ammonium sulfate. The formation of ammonium sulfate is non-reversible; therefore, the nitrogen in the litter is not released as ammonia when the pH increases (Ullman et al., 2004). Following poultry litter land application, inorganic, water-soluble forms of litter N such as ammonium sulfate (formed by PLT®), ammonium nitrogen, ammonium nitrate and nitrate nitrogen are transported into the soil by rainfall and are readily available for plant root uptake (Havlin et al., 2005).
Published research from the University of Delaware has shown that litter pH and ammonia levels were decreased following repeated PLT® application to broiler litter in both laboratory and field experiments. Furthermore, organic nitrogen and total nitrogen contents were higher in PLT® treated litter compared to untreated litter. This is due to the fact that PLT® reduced ammonia loss (Li et al., 2013).
In a study conducted at the University of Georgia (Johnson et al., 2006), consecutive use of PLT® for 3 flocks showed a linear increase in both total nitrogen and ammonium nitrogen (NH4-N) retained in the litter as the amount of PLT® applied increased (Fig. 1 & 2). The higher amounts of retained litter nitrogen in the 150 lb/1,000 sq. ft. treatment group indicate a reduction in ammonia emissions compared to the lower treatment
Figures 1 & 2. Amount of retained total nitrogen and ammonium nitrogen (NH4-N) in broiler litter after three flocks of PLT® usage on re-used litter.
- Roughly 86% of poultry litter N is found in the organic (slow release) form while the remaining 14% is inorganic (fast release) N.
- Ammonia losses from litter are reduced following PLT® application.
- PLT® reduces ammonia volatilization by forming ammonium sulfate and increasing litter ammonium N.
- Ammonium sulfate and ammonium N are inorganic, water-soluble, nitrogen fertilizer sources readily available for plant root uptake.
- Research has shown that total nitrogen and ammonium N levels are higher in PLT® treated litter compared to non-treated litter.
- Sodium levels in PLT-treated litter show no significant difference to non-treated litter.
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Read More on Ammonia and Litter Management
Blake, J. P. and J. B. Hess. 2007. Sodium bisulfate (PLT) as a litter treatment. http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1208/
ANR-1208.pdf Accessed November, 2017.
Havlin, J., J. Beaton, S. Tisdale and W. Nelson. Soil Fertility and Fertilizers. 7th Edition. pp. 146-151.
Johnson, T.M., B. Murphy, R. Chick, B. Fairchild, and C.W. Ritz, 2006. The use of sodium bisulfate as a best management practice for reducing ammonia and VOC emissions from poultry and dairy manures. Proc. International Workshop on Ag. Air Quality. Potomac, MD. 786-794.
Li, H., H. Lin, S. Collier, W. Brown and S. White-Hansen, 2013. Assessment of frequent litter amendment application on ammonia emission from broiler operations. J. of Air and Waste Mgmt. Assoc. 63(4):442-452.
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Ullman, J.L., S. Mukhtar, R.E. lacey, and J.B. Carey, 2004. A review of literature concerning odors, ammonia, and dust from broiler production facilities: 4. Remedial Management Practices. J. Appl. Poult. Res. 13: 521-31.