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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 39 No. 5, p. 1848-1857
    Received: Jan 19, 2010

    * Corresponding author(s): michael.rothrock@ars.usda.gov
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Microbial Mineralization of Organic Nitrogen Forms in Poultry Litters

  1. Michael J. Rothrock *c,
  2. Kimberly L. Cooka,
  3. Jason G. Warrena,
  4. Mark A. Eitemanb and
  5. Karamat Sistania
  1. c Current address: USDA–ARS, New England Plant, Soil, Water Lab., Univ. of Maine, Portage Rd., Orono, ME 04469. Assigned to Associate Editor James Entry
    a USDA–ARS, Animal Waste Management Research Unit, 230 Bennett Ln., Bowling Green, KY 42104
    b Dep. of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Univ. of Georgia, Driftmier Engineering Center, Athens, GA 30602


Ammonia volatilization from the mineralization of uric acid and urea has a major impact on the poultry industry and the environment. Dry acids are commonly used to reduce ammonia emissions from poultry houses; however, little is known about how acidification affects the litter biologically. The goal of this laboratory incubation was to compare the microbiological and physiochemical effects of dry acid amendments (Al+Clear, Poultry Litter Treatment, Poultry Guard) on poultry litter to an untreated control litter and to specifically correlate uric acid and urea contents of these litters to the microbes responsible for their mineralization. Although all three acidifiers eventually produced similar effects within the litter, there was at least a 2-wk delay in the microbiological responses using Poultry Litter Treatment. Acidification of the poultry litter resulted in >3 log increases in total fungal concentrations, with both uricolytic (uric acid degrading) and ureolytic (urea degrading) fungi increasing by >2 logs within the first 2 to 4 wk of the incubation. Conversely, total, uricolytic, and ureolytic bacterial populations all significantly declined during this same time period. While uric acid and urea mineralization occurred within the first 2 wk in the untreated control litter, acidification resulted in delayed mineralization events for both uric acid and urea (2 and 4 wk delay, respectively) once fungal cell concentrations exceeded a threshold level. Therefore, fungi, and especially uricolytic fungi, appear to have a vital role in the mineralization of organic N in low-pH, high-N environments, and the activity of these fungi should be considered in best management practices to reduce ammonia volatilization from acidified poultry litter.

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Copyright © 2010. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyAmerican Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America