U.S. Water News Online
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- A federal Agriculture Department
scientist says poultry growers can reduce ammonia levels in waste by
treating litter with alum.
Philip Moore says use of alum -- the common name for aluminum
sulfate -- also lowers the amount of soluble phosphorus in litter,
and that's good for streams that take runoff from rains that have
fallen on litter.
Moore works at the USDA's research unit at Fayetteville. He said
he first looked for a way to bind phosphorus in 1992, after working
in eastern Arkansas, where row crops had depleted phosphorus in the
He tried about 100 compounds and found alum showed the most
promise, Moore recalled, then conducted extensive studies on alum
Moore concluded, based on small plot studies, that concentrations
of soluble phosphorus in runoff water from fields where litter
treated with alum had been applied can be decreased by as much as 87
The soluble form of phosphorus -- which he said comprises 80 to 90
percent of what's contained in runoff -- is what causes problems in
lakes and rivers, Moore said, because it is consumed by algae that
bloom and despoil the water.
Moore said use of alum also produces higher crop yields because it
retains more nitrogen in the litter, by reducing loss of nitrogen as
a component of ammonia.
A typical poultry house will lose about 2 tons of nitrogen each
year as ammonia produced by the litter is vented outside, but houses
that have been treated with alum lose only about 1,000 pounds, Moore
Alum is also effective in removing heavy metals and
naturally-occurring estrogen from the waste stream, according to
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