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Fertilizer: The Many Forms You Can Use



Authors as Published

Mark Reiter, Associate Professor and Extension Soils and Nutrient Management Specialist, Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Virginia Tech; and Clara Ervin, Graduate Student, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech

Poultry Litter

  • Poultry litter is a substance found on the floor of poultry houses that is comprised of a base bedding material, such as wood shavings, pine bark, rice hulls, peanut hulls, or ground warm season grasses, and is then mixed with water, feed, feathers, additives (such as alum) and poultry manure as the chicken or turkey matures.

  • Relative low nutrient analysis of N-P-K (Table 1).

A top view of a pile of poultry littter

Poultry Litter Ash (Co-Products)

  • After combustion or gasification, the resulting product is poultry litter ash (PLA), with a reduction in the original feedstock material by 90% by weight. The PLA is sterile, and is a powder like material with high concentrations of nutrients (Table 1).

  • Ash can be granulated into prills similar to commercial fertilizer.

A top view of two piles of poultry litter ash. One pile is a powder, the other is granulated into prills.

Inorganic Fertilizers

  • Known and consistent concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur presented in a standard format of N-P2O5-K2O-S.

  • Typical sources include urea and liquid urea-ammonium nitrate (UAN) for nitrogen and triple super phosphate and diammonium phosphate for phosphorus.

a top view of granulated inorganic fertilizer
Table 1.  Average moisture, total nitrogen (N), phosphate (P2O5), potash (K2O), and sulfur (S) for various poultry manure sources and inorganic fertilizer reported on an “as-is” basis for the mid-Atlantic.
Fertilizer Source Moisture N P2O5 K2O S
  % % % % %
Poultry Litter 28.7 2.5 2.5 1.8 0.4
Poultry Litter Ash 0.3 0.3 18.6 13.9 2.4
Urea 0.5 46 0 0 0
Potassium Chloride 0.0 0 0 60 0
Triple Super Phosphate 0.0 0 46 0 2

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Publication Date

March 18, 2020