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Burning Poultry Litter Yields Energy, Reduces Pollution

by 5m Editor
9 April 2007, at 9:31am

US - Researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences are working to perfect a method for disposing of poultry litter that could save energy costs to heat poultry houses and reduce water pollution from manure applied to fields as fertilizer.

Supported by a two-year $50,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, scientists are collaborating with turkey growers and the Adams County poultry company Pilgrim's Pride to demonstrate that incineration is a viable method to resolve problems associated with the spreading of poultry litter.

"Growers spend thousands of dollars for propane to heat their baby birds," says Paul Patterson, professor of poultry science. "So if we can generate heat to offset their costs -- and if we can improve water quality by reducing soil phosphate levels -- it's a win-win situation. The implications of this, if it can be done on a large scale, are huge."

Poultry litter - wood shavings and manure - are now spread on the land to provide plant nutrients. However, this practice can contribute to a major problem in the Susquehanna River drainage, by far the largest source of fresh water to the Chesapeake Bay. Excess nutrients from poultry and livestock manure cause algae blooms in the bay, which deplete oxygen for aquatic species each summer. Animal feed imported from the Midwest disrupts the nutrient balance of the region because the resulting manure - which is costly to export - is disposed of locally.

Valued at between $600 million and $700 million annually, the poultry industry is the second-largest agricultural enterprise in Pennsylvania, trailing only dairy. Pennsylvania is the third-largest egg-producing state in the nation and a leader in hatching-egg production. "So we have a lot of poultry litter to dispose of," Patterson says. "Penn State has been studying the burning of poultry litter since the 1980s. We believe it can play an important role in preventing excess-nutrient pollution."

Patterson explains that burning a pound of poultry litter produces about 4,000 BTUs. That is an acceptable yield, he notes -- about a third of the energy gained from burning a pound of coal.

Source: PA Farm News

5m Editor