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Environmental Effects of In-House Windrow Composting of Poultry Litter

Project Goals/Objectives: This project will demonstrate the environmental effects of treating poultry litter using In-House Windrow Composting (IWC). The effect of IWC-treated litter on runoff water quality when the litter is land applied will be assessed as well as other benefits of this practice. Data is needed to evaluate parameters such as nutrient load and solubility and E. coli content in runoff water from land upon which IWC-treated poultry litter has been applied. It is anticipated that the IWC procedure should eliminate most E. coli in the litter, thus reducing the potential for bacterial contamination of water resources. If successfully demonstrated, IWC could be used by poultry producers as a standard, cost-effective best management practice (BMP) to reduce the microbial load of poultry litter before it is removed from poultry houses during whole house cleanouts. In addition, implementation of IWC as a BMP between flocks could also eliminate the need for caked litter removal, handling and disposal; thus, reducing the frequency (and potentially the total amount) of litter removed from poultry houses and needing final disposition.

To evaluate the potential benefit to surface water runoff quality, IWC will be performed at a private poultry facility (cooperator site) in either Limestone or Falls County. Bacteria, nutrients, and volatiles in raw and IWC litter will be evaluated prior to land application at USDA-ARS sites in Riesel. A 3 ton/ac application rate will be utilized as recommended by Harmel et al. (2009). This rate is typical for pasture conditions in Central Texas. Additionally, through the use of laboratory and field evaluation of volatile concentrations from litter and from the application sites at Riesel by W-TAMU, the environmental impacts of using IWC poultry litter instead of raw litter will be demonstrated.

Project Location: Limestone or Falls County 

Project Costs: Federal ($268,236); Non-Federal Match ($178,844); Total Project ($447,080)

Project Participant(s): TSSWCB, USDA-ARS, Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI), Texas AgriLife Extension Service – Department of Poultry Science (POSC), Texas AgriLife Extension Service – Soil, Water and Forage Testing Laboratory (SWFTL), Texas AgriLife Research – Department of Soil and Crop Sciences – Soil & Aquatic Microbiology Lab (SAML), West Texas A&M Univ. Olfactometry Laboratory (W-TAMU), Sanderson Farms, Texas Poultry Federation, USDA-NRCS, and Limestone Falls Soil and Water Conservation District

Project Workplan: 09-05

Project Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP): 09-05

Project Final Report: 09-05

"Protecting and Enhancing Natural Resources since 1939."

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