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Prototype Applicator Buries Poultry Litter
Instead of broadcasting poultry litter onto crop land, this new applicator buries it to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen runoff. After six years of research and development, Thomas R. Way, an agricultural engineer with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, hopes to find a company interested in manufacturing the new patent-pending design.
  Besides reducing harmful nutrients in runoff, the tool has other benefits - reducing odor and providing more accessible nutrients to crops.
  The litter applicator creates four trenches with adjustable spacing from 10 to 40 in. apart.
  "It's like a two-stage press wheel system," Way says. A trencher with a leading 18-in. coulter creates a shallow trench. Litter falls into the trench, and a first set of 12-in. wheels covers the litter with a couple inches of soil. A second set of dual 8-in. wheels presses soil down over over the litter. The rate of application can be changed by how it's metered out of the hopper or by the speed of the tractor pulling the applicator.
  With the litter buried, there are fewer nutrients in the runoff after heavy rainfalls. In a Bermuda grass forage plot there was 85 to 90 percent less nutrients in the runoff compared to the broadcast method.
  According to results in a cotton test plots, there are also benefits to the crop when rows are planted about 6 in. from the trenches. "We're getting the nutrients closer to the plant roots," Way says.
  Burying the litter also reduces odor, he notes.
  The applicator has been used on a variety of soils in the Southeast and in Arkansas, where there are many broiler operations with a lot of available poultry litter.
  Though it hasn't been used to spread turkey litter, Way says the applicator should work for that and for some other fertilizer applications. It worked well for an organic pellet fertilizer, for example.
  With its promising research results, Way hopes to find someone interested in putting the litter applicator into production.
  "ARS has applied for a patent and would like to find a partner who would license, further develop and commercialize the technology," he says.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Thomas R. Way, Agricultural Engineer, USDA-ARS National Soil Dynamics Laboratory, 411 S. Donahue Dr., Auburn, Alabama 36832 (ph 334 844-4753; tom.way@ars.usda.gov).

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2009 - Volume #33, Issue #2