Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Phosphorous runoff, Poultry litter


Arkansas produces approximately one billion broilers each year. Phosphorous (P) runoff from fields receiving poultry litter is believed to be one of the primary factors affecting water quality in Northwest Arkansas. Poultry litter contains approximately 20 g P kg-1, of which about 2 g P kg-1 is water soluble. Soils that have received repeated heavy applications of litter may have water soluble P contents of as high as 10 mg P Kg-1 soil. The objective of this study was to determine if soluble P levels could be reduced in poultry litter and litter-amended soils with Al,Ca, and/or Fe amendments. Poultry litter was amended with alum, sodium aluminate, quick lime, slaked lime, calcitic limestone, dolomitic limestone, gypsum, ferrous chloride, ferric chloride, ferrous sulfate and ferric sulfate, and incubated in the dark at 25°C for one week. Three soils which had been excessively fertilized with poultry litter were amended with alum, ferrous sulfate, calcitic limestone, gypsum and slaked lime and incubated for 4 weeks at 25 °C. In the litter studies, the Ca treatments were tested with and without CaF2 additions in an attempt to precipitate fluorapatite. At the end of the incubation period, the litter and soils were extracted with deionized water and soluble reactive P (SRP) was determined. SRP levels in the poultry litter were reduced from over 2,000 mg P kg-1 litter to less than 1 mg P kg-1 litter with the addition of alum, quick lime, slaked lime, ferrous chloride, ferric chloride, ferrous sulfate and ferric sulfate under favorable pH conditions. S.RP levels in the soils were reduced from approximately 5 mg P Kg-1 soil to less than 0.05 mg P Kg-1 soil with the addition of alum and ferrous sulfate under favorable pH conditions. Gypsum and sodium aluminate reduced SRP levels in litter by 50 to 60 percent while calcitic and dolomitic limestone were even less effective. In soils, the Ca amendments were less effective than the Al and Fe amendments, although slaked lime was effective at high pH. The results of these studies suggest that treating litter and excessively fertilized soils with some of these compounds, particularly alum, could significantly reduce the amount of SRP in runoff from littered pastures. Therefore, chemical additions to reduce SRP in litter and soil may be a best management practice in situations where eutrophication of adjacent water bodies due to P runoff has been identified. Preliminary calculations indicate that this .p ractice may be economically feasible. However, more research is needed to determine any beneficial and/or detrimental aspects of this practice.

Report Number

PUB 169