Friday, December 30, 2016

Farmer Mounts Chicken Shit Defense

From the Chesapeake Bay newsfeed, a chicken farmer promotes his second product, chicken manure: It’s not poultry waste – it’s organic fertilizer
I would like to set the record straight on the value of poultry litter as organic fertilizer.

Poultry litter is a mixture of chicken manure and wood shavings. The wood shavings are the bedding used in poultry houses. Chicken manure, which has very little moisture, mixes with the shavings. It produces a dry product that is easily handled and very stackable.

Contrary to many assumptions, poultry litter is low in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but high in organic matter. It carries a nutrient value of 4 percent nitrogen, 3 percent phosphorus, 3 percent potassium and 90 percent organic matter. It is considered one of mother nature’s perfect fertilizers.

The organic matter improves the soil’s water-holding capacity, as well as soil health. Poultry litter is one of the only sources of fertilizer for organic growers on the Eastern Shore and in most of Maryland.

Contrary to what is being taught, there is not an excess of poultry litter in Maryland. There is actually a shortage of organic fertilizer. When anti-poultry advocates say elevated phosphorus levels in soils near poultry houses proves there are too many chickens in the state, they are wrong. The fact is scientific researchers advised farmers for many years to build up phosphorus in the soil.

In recent years, scientists have determined there is a saturation point, after which no more phosphorus can be held by the soil.

In response to the scientific findings, Maryland’s Nutrient Management Plan was modified to require phosphorus be regulated and limited in 2006. In 2015, additional limitations were added through the Phosphorus Management Tool. This tool uses the soil P levels, topography and the closeness to water resources to determine where P must be limited — or in some cases banned altogether.

According to the Maryland Department of Agriculture, 312,393 tons of chicken litter are collected from Maryland poultry farms annually. Based on nutrient management regulatory calculations, we would need 156,196 acres of cropland to spread the litter produced each year. There are 469,767 acres on the Eastern Shore that are low in phosphorus and litter eligible.

Thus, there is three times the needed amount of land just on the Eastern Shore to properly use all the litter produced in Maryland.

Because of its organic value, poultry litter is a commodity poultry farmers can sell or barter. Poultry growers also often use the litter as fertilizer on their own crop operations for a significantly lower cost, and less carbon footprint, than transporting commercial fertilizer.

So what does this mean? If the legislature passed law that required poultry companies to take all the litter from farmers, it would only make the company richer. The companies would have a valuable commodity to sell to the highest bidder.
Quite a credible defense.

1 comment:

  1. Sawdust and shavings tie up a lot of manure in the cellulose and it breaks down slowly. We use horse and chicken bedding (sawdust in this case) as a compost and it produces a garden you wouldn't believe. Strawberries are bigger than in the store and don't taste like the "balsam wood" flavored strawberries in stores.