Mining Manure for Phosphorous
By Ann Perry ARS
By Ann Perry ARS
Feb. 29, 2008, U.S. – Underground phosphorus deposits around the world are mined for use as a
much-valued fertilizer. Now Agricultural Research Service (ARS ) soil scientists Ariel Szogi, Matias Vanotti, and Patrick Hunt have found a way to “mine” the phosphorus in poultry manure.
In 2006, the United States produced 8.9 billion broilers—and piles and piles
of residual litter rich in phosphorus and nitrogen. Although poultry litter is
typically used by farmers to fertilize their field crops with these two
nutrients, it usually contains more phosphorus than the crops need. The excess
phosphorus has the potential to wash away and pollute nearby rivers and lakes.
Szogi, Vanotti and Hunt have developed a method to obtain the phosphorus in
poultry litter—consisting of a rapid removal and recovery of phosphorus in
solid form—which they’ve dubbed “Quick Wash.” ARS has applied for a patent on
The process selectively removes up to 80 percent of the phosphorus from
poultry litter while leaving the nitrogen. The washed poultry litter can be
safely applied to farm fields as a balanced fertilizer or used again as a
bedding material. It can also serve as a feedstock for bioenergy production.
U.S. farmers use some 3.7 billion pounds of phosphorus in annual crop
production. But poultry and other livestock produce about 1 billion pounds more
phosphorus than livestock producers can use.
This innovation provides an environmentally sound phosphorus recovery system
that livestock producers can use to manage the excess phosphorus in manure.
Poultry producers also benefit by producing a concentrated phosphorus product that
can be moved easily off farms and reused as fertilizer.
ARS is interested in finding business partners to move the product to