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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 35 No. 1, p. 172-182
    Received: Sept 11, 2004

    * Corresponding author(s): jawarre1@vt.edu


Environmental and Production Consequences of Using Alum-Amended Poultry Litter as a Nutrient Source for Corn

  1. Jason G. Warren *a,
  2. Steven B. Phillipsa,
  3. Greg L. Mullinsb,
  4. Dale Keaheya and
  5. Chad J. Pennc
  1. a Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 33446 Research Drive, Painter, VA 23420
    b New Mexico State University, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, Room 127N, Skeen Hall, Las Cruces, NM 88003
    c USDA/ARS Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, 3702 Curtain Road, University Park, PA 16802


Field trials were established to compare alum-treated poultry litter (ATPL), normal poultry litter (NPL), and triple superphosphate (TSP) as fertilizer sources for corn (Zea mays L.) when applied at rates based on current litter management strategies in Virginia. Trials were established in the Costal Plain and Piedmont physiographic regions near Painter and Orange, VA, respectively. Nitrogen-based applications of ATPL or NPL applied at rates estimated to supply 173 kg of plant-available nitrogen (PAN) ha−1 resulted in significantly lower grain yields than treatments receiving commercial fertilizer at the same rate in 2000 and 2001 at Painter. These decreases in grain yield at the N-based application rates were attributed to inadequate N availability, resulting from overestimates of PAN as demonstrated by tissue N concentrations. However, at Orange no treatment effects on grain yield were observed. Applications of ATPL did not affect Al concentrations in corn ear-leaves at either location. Exchangeable soil Al concentrations were most elevated in treatments receiving only NH4NO3 as an N source. At N-based application rates, the ATPL resulted in lower Mehlich 1–extractable P (M1-P) and water-extractable soil phosphorus (H2O-P) concentrations compared to the application of NPL. A portion of this reduction could be attributed to lower rates of P applied in the N-based ATPL treatments. Runoff collected from treatments which received ATPL 2 d before conducting rainfall simulations contained 61 to 71% less dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) than treatments receiving NPL. These results show that ATPL may be used as a nutrient source for corn production without significant management alterations. Alum-treated poultry litter can also reduce the environmental impact of litter applications, primarily through minimizing the P status of soils receiving long-term applications of litter and reductions in runoff DRP losses shortly after application.

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