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Poultry litter and the environment: Physiochemical properties of litter and soil during successive flock rotations and after remote site deposition

Crippen, Tawni L., Sheffield, Cynthia L., Byrd, J. Allen, Esquivel, Jesus F., Beier, Ross C., Yeater, Kathleen
The Science of the total environment 2016 v.553 pp. 650-661
The U.S. broiler meat market has grown over the past 16years and destinations for U.S. broiler meat exports expanded to over 150 countries. This market opportunity has spurred a corresponding increase in industrialized poultry production, which due to the confined space in which high numbers of animals are housed, risks accumulating nutrients and pollutants. The purpose of this research was to determine the level of pollutants within poultry litter and the underlying soil within a production facility; and to explore the impact of spent litter deposition into the environment. The study follows a production facility for the first 2.5years of production. It monitors the effects of successive flocks and management practices on 15 physiochemical parameters: Ca, Cu, electrical conductivity, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, moisture, Na, NO3−/N, organic matter, P, pH, S, and Zn. Litter samples were collected in-house, after clean-outs and during stockpiling. The soil before house placement, after the clean-outs and following litter stockpiling was monitored. Management practices markedly altered the physiochemical profiles of the litter in-house. A canonical discriminant analysis was used to describe the relationship between the parameters and sampling times. The litter profiles grouped into five clusters corresponding to time and management practices. The soil in-house exhibited mean increases in all physiochemical parameters (2–297 fold) except Fe, Mg, %M, and pH. The spent litter was followed after deposition onto a field for use as fertilizer. After 20weeks, the soil beneath the litter exhibited increases in EC, Cu, K, Na, NO3−/N, %OM, P, S and Zn; while %M decreased. Understanding the impacts of industrialized poultry farms on the environment is vital as the cumulative ecological impact of this land usage could be substantial if not properly managed to reduce the risk of potential pollutant infiltration into the environment.