Management of Alum-Treated Poultry Litter
Previous research has shown that treatment of poultry litter with alum is an effective management strategy to reduce phosphorus (P) solubility in litter thereby reducing potential P losses to surface runoff after surface applications. However, limited data are available evaluating alum-treated poultry litter (ATPL) environmental impact in cultivated systems and how its application will affect crop production. In addition little is known as to how its application affects various P fractions or exchangeable Aluminum (Al) content in treated soils. Two, 3-yr field trials with corn (Zea mays L.) were used to show that, when applied at rates based on current litter management strategies, ATPL resulted in yields similar to those achieved through applications of non-treated poultry litter (NPL). These trials also showed that ATPL applications resulted in lower soil P status and decreased P losses in surface water runoff compared to application of NPL. A 4-yr field trial with fescue (Festuca arudinacea) also showed no significant differences in productivity when comparing ATPL and NPL. This trial was utilized to evaluate the distribution of P in soils receiving ATPL. Soil analysis data showed that ATPL applications result in decreased water-extractable P (H2O-P) and that this decrease was associated with an elevation in NaOH extractable organic soil P. A laboratory incubation was utilized to evaluate the short and long-term impact of ATPL application on soil pH, exchangeable soil Al and H2O-P. Data from this incubation confirmed that the relationship between soil pH and exchangeable Al is not adversely affected by ATPL applications. Also, variations in the H2O-P content of soils treated with two different ATPL sources could not be associated with differences in Al:P ratio or soluble P content of the two litters, providing evidence that additional characteristics also control P availability after incorporation in soil.