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Posted 20 September 2011. PMN Crop News.

Chicken Litter as Fertilizer and Nematode Control

Source: University of Arkansas Press Release.

Pine Bluff, Arkansas (September 2, 2011)--Along with Arkansas’s top ranking as a poultry producing state comes a lot of chicken litter. But, what to do with it? A University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences researcher and assistant professor is working on that.


Dr. Sixte Ntamatungiro has been evaluating pelletized chicken litter (PCL) and urea as fertilizer sources for the white-fleshed sweet potato cultivar ‘Kubota’, the use of PCL and urea to control soil-borne nematodes and the best way to do this.

Because of the high cost of inorganic fertilizer, alternative nitrogen fertilizer sources, such as pelletized chicken litter can be a viable option. It is an important source of nutrients for crops as it improves soil and provides some control of soil-borne diseases. Already used as a fertilizer for row crops such as wheat, rice, corn and cotton, PCL is certified by the Organic Materials Review and marketed as MicroStart60PlusTM fertilizer. It has a nutrient analysis of 4 percent nitrogen, 2 percent phosphorus and 3 percent potassium, and it also contains calcium, magnesium and iron. It is low in salt and safe to apply around people and animals.

Sweet potato plants require moderate requirements of nitrogen, a low requirement of phosphorus but a high requirement of potassium.

Because PCL represents an affordable, cheap nutrient source, the study evaluated PCL as a source of nitrogen for sweet potatoes and compared it to conventional inorganic urea fertilizer used as nitrogen by many farmers, and the most effective way to use the pelletized chicken litter.

Vine cuttings of ‘Kubota’ with 3 nodes were planted in hills ˝ in deep with 1 foot between the hills within a row on Calloway soil at the UAPB Agricultural Research Station Farm.

Dr. Ntamatungiro and assistant Joseph Davis investigated five scenarios:

•Control plot with no nitrogen applied

•Full rate of 40 pounds of nitrogen applied as urea before planting

•Full rate of 40 pounds of nitrogen applied as PCL before planting

•Half rate of 20 pounds of nitrogen per acre applied as urea before planting followed by side dressing of 20 pounds of nitrogen per acre 3 weeks after planting

•Half rate of 20 pounds of nitrogen per acre applied as PCL before planting followed by side dressing of 20 pounds of nitrogen per acre 3 weeks after planting

What they discovered is that pelletized chicken litter in combination with inorganic nitrogen fertilizer that is side-dressed can be a suitable alternative to urea as a nitrogen fertilizer source for producing US #1 sweet potatoes. In addition, pelletized chicken litter can reduce the damaging effect of soil nematodes to sweet potato roots.

His data also showed that fertilizer applied in split applications timed to coincide with the growth stage of greater nitrogen demand by the plants is more efficiently used than the full fertilizer rate applied in one application.

Further research is needed to investigate the effect of other organic amendments to the soil on nutrient uptake and water use efficiency of sweet potato plants and on nematodes and insects such as sweet potato weevils, says Dr. Ntamatungiro.

By Carol Sanders