Extraction and Recovery of Phosphorus from Pig Manure Using the Quick Wash Process

*Why Look at Phosphorus Recovery from Pig Manure?

Land disposal of manure is a challenging environmental problem in areas with intense confined pig production. When manure is land applied at optimal nitrogen rates for crop growth, phosphorus can accumulate in excess of soil assimilative capacity because of the disproportion of nitrogen and phosphorus contents in animal manures relative to plant biomass. In turn, excess manure phosphorus lost through soil leaching or runoff has the potential to reach and pollute water resources. To reduce manure phosphorus losses into the environment, a substantial amount of phosphorus needs to be moved off the pig farm but transporting manure to phosphorus-deficit croplands becomes less cost effective with increasing distance from the pig farm. Yet, conservation and recovery of phosphorus is a concern in modern agriculture because of the high cost and possible insufficient supply of mined phosphates in the future. Thus, manure management in regions with intense animal production could benefit from new technologies that would recover manure phosphorus in a concentrated, usable form. This approach would make more economical the long distance transfers of manure phosphorus while reducing both agronomic phosphorus imbalances and adverse effects of soil P losses on water resources.

What did we do?

diagram of the quick wash processA patented treatment process, called “Quick Wash”, was developed for extraction and recovery of phosphorus from animal manure solids, but research has shown that the approach is equally effective with municipal biosolids. In the Quick Wash process, phosphorus is selectively extracted from pig manure solids by using mineral or organic acid solutions. Following, phosphorus is recovered by addition of liquid lime and an organic poly-electrolyte to the liquid extract to form a calcium-containing P precipitate. The quick wash process generates two products: 1) manure solids low in phosphorus; and 2) recovered phosphorus material.

What have we learned?

The Quick Wash process selectively extracts and recovers as much as 90 % of the phosphorus from pig manure solids while leaving most of the nitrogen in the washed manure solids. Consequently, the washed solid residue has a more balanced nitrogen and phosphorus composition for crop production and is environmentally safer for land application. The concentrated phosphorus product contains more than 90% of its phosphorus in plant available form for use as crop fertilizer. The inclusion of this process in a waste management system offers pig producers a new and welcomed opportunity to minimize phosphorus losses into the environment, while recovering and recycling phosphorus as a valuable product.

Future Plans

USDA granted an exclusive license of the invention to Renewable Nutrients, LLC (Pinehurst, NC). The Quick Wash is being commercialized by Renewable Nutrients, LLC for the municipal wastewater treatment sector and its partner TRIEA Technologies, LLC (Frederick, MD) for phosphorus recovery in the animal agriculture market.


Ariel A. Szogi, Research Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS Coastal Plains Soil, Water, and Plant Research Center, Florence, SC ariel.szogi@ars.usda.gov

Matias B. Vanotti, Patrick G. Hunt – USDA-ARS Coastal Plains Soil, Water, and Plant

Additional information




Szogi, A.A., Vanotti, M.B., Hunt, P.G., 2014. Process for removing and recovering phosphorus from animal waste. U.S. Patent 8,673,046 B1. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.


This work is part of USDA-ARS National Program 214: Agricultural and Industrial Byproducts; ARS Project 6657-13630-005-00D “Innovative Bioresource Management Technologies for Enhanced Environmental Quality and Value Optimization.”

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