Ohio State University Extension Bulletin

Poultry Manure Management And Utilization Problems And Opportunities

Bulletin 804

General Guidelines for Manure Application

There are three different areas of concern in suggesting guidelines for the disposal and/or utilization of poultry manure on the land. The primary concern deals with human and farm animal health or safety associated with land manure application. Ground and surface water levels of nitrates are of greatest interest because they present potential human and animal health problems. To avoid this primary problem the following guidelines are offered:

  1. Application of poultry manure in this case is limited by nitrogen levels to avoid the appearance of undesirable levels of nitrates in the drinking water supply or the appearance of any coliform bacteria.

  2. Manure applications to land should be incorporated into the soil as rapidly as possible to avoid runoff, odor, and insect problems.

  3. When land application to frozen soils is desirable to avoid odor and fly problems and to gain access to fields, applications to land with significant slopes, near wells, streams, and waterways should be avoided.

  4. Grassland buffer zones should be used near waterways that are maintained without manure application to avoid lake and stream pollution.

  5. Outdoor stockpiling of raw manure should be avoided whenever possible. Manure should only be stored under roof and on a concrete pad.

The second area of concern deals with ecological considerations and environmental alterations in public waters that may have undesirable effects on aquatic plant and animal populations. If pollution of streams and lakes with ammonia, phosphates and organic matter takes place, application of poultry manure may need to be further limited than is the case for the primary area of concern. Further attention to guidelines two, three and four may also be required to alleviate this second area of concern.

The third area of concern is agronomic. The interest is in the best utilization of poultry manure as a crop fertilizer and its incorporation into soils at levels to provide only the necessary levels of plant nutrients. The rate of manure application should be limited to that amount required for crop production and maintenance of a reasonable level of soil fertility. Generally this means that soil levels of phosphorous and/or potassium govern the amount of poultry manure that it is appropriate to use. In this case supplementary sources of nitrogen usually must be used to produce an appropriate nutrient balance. Phosphorus accumulation takes place in some soils as a result of over-fertilization. The amount of poultry manure used under these conditions depends on crop needs, soil fertility levels, physical characteristics of the soil and the potency of the manure. The actual amount of manure applied should be calculated for each crop production situation. These calculations will generally result in the lowest level of manure application. Even when manure is used to satisfy agronomic concerns at reduced application rates, guidelines two, three and four should be carefully observed.

The steps to follow in determining how much poultry manure can be utilized as a crop fertilizer are presented in Table 3.

Table 3 How much poultry manure can be utilized as a crop fertilizer?

Steps to follow:

  1. Because poultry manure is usually stored for varying lengths of time and is mixed with litter material when it is obtained from floor pens, it will vary in composition from the fresh manures shown in Table 2 and should be analyzed for the main fertilizer elements before it is used.

  2. Soil fertility tests should be conducted on land areas to be fertilized.

  3. Crop needs for projected yields for each of the main fertilizer elements should be determined from appropriate guides for crop production.

  4. Manure application should be limited to amounts needed to make up the difference between crop needs and existing soil fertility levels. In most cases, limiting use of poultry manure to provide crop needs for phosphorous and potassium will result in needs for additional nitrogen fertilizer. Calculations of this type, applied to different farms, will frequently show needs of 2 to 6 tons of manure per acre of cropland. Using poultry manure at levels to provide the crop needs for nitrogen will usually result in the excessive application of phosphorous and potassium.

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