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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Waste Management

Poultry Litter Application to Loblolly Pine Forests


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 35 No. 3, p. 837-848
    Received: June 12, 2005

    * Corresponding author(s): afriend@fs.fed.us
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  1. Alexander L. Friend *a,
  2. Scott D. Robertsb,
  3. Stephen H. Schoenholtzc,
  4. Juanita A. Mobleyb and
  5. Patrick D. Gerardd
  1. a USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station, 410 MacInnes Drive, Houghton, MI 49931
    b Department of Forestry, Mississippi State University, Box 9681, Mississippi State, MS 39762-9681
    c Department of Forest Engineering, 267 Peavy Hall, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331-5706
    d Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Mississippi State University, P.O. Drawer MA, Mailstop 9715, Mississippi State, MS 39762


Forestland application of poultry manure offers an alternative to the conventional practice of pastureland application. Before such a practice is considered viable, however, it must be demonstrated that the forest ecosystem is capable of absorbing the nutrients contained in poultry manure, especially nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). From the forestry perspective, it must also be demonstrated that tree growth is not diminished. We investigated these questions using loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) stands growing in central Mississippi in an area of high poultry production. Stockpiled broiler litter was applied to newly thinned, 8-yr-old stands at 0, 4.6, and 18.6 dry Mg ha−1, supplying 0, 200, and 800 kg N ha−1 and 0, 92, and 370 kg P ha−1, respectively. Levels of nitrate in soil water, monitored at a 50-cm depth with porous cup tension lysimeters, exceeded 10 mg N L−1 during the first two years after application in the 18.6 Mg ha−1 rate but only on two occasions in the first year for the lower rate of application. Phosphate was largely absent from lysimeter water in all treatments. Other macronutrients (K, Ca, Mg, S) were elevated in lysimeter water in proportion to litter application rates. Soil extractable nitrate showed similar trends to lysimeter water, with substantial elevation during the first year following application for the 18.6 Mg ha−1 rate. Mehlich III–extractable phosphate peaked in excess of 100 μg P g−1 soil during the third year of the study for the 18.6 Mg ha−1 rate. The 4.6 Mg ha−1 rate did not affect extractable soil P. Tree growth was increased by the poultry litter. Total stem cross-sectional area, or basal area, was approximately 20% greater after 2 yr for both rates of litter application. Overall, the nutrients supplied by the 4.6 Mg ha−1 rate were contained by the pine forest and resulted in favorable increases in tree growth. The higher rate, by contrast, did pose some risk to water quality through the mobilization of nitrate. These results show that, under the conditions of this study, application of poultry litter at moderate rates of approximately 5 Mg ha−1 to young stands of loblolly pine offers an alternative disposal option with minimal impacts to water quality and potential increases in tree growth.

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