What Happens When You Mix Chitosan and Poultry Litter?

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The solubility of phosphorus (P) and low nitrogen(N):P ratio of poultry litter present environmental challenges when using this resource to supply nutrients to crops and forages.  Here, we explore the use of chitosan to reduce water extractable P (WEP) in poultry litter and potentially increase the N:P ratio.  Chitosan is derived from chitin, which is a waste product from the commercial shellfish industry; chitin is processed into chitosan through deacetylation, removing acetyl groups from this long-chained molecule.  Chitin has been successfully used in manure separation and flocculation in wastewater treatment processes, as well as immobilizing algae in wastewater streams to uptake nutrients. 

We performed a series a lab studies to evaluate how chitosan might reduce WEP, influence ammonia volatilization and potentially increase the N:P ratio of poultry litter.  Our experiments showed that chitosan was effective at reducing WEP content of poultry litter and increasing the N:P ratio, but ammonia volatilization might be increased under moist conditions.  We would like to take this from the lab to small plot and then field trials in the near future.


Brian Haggard, Arkansas Water Resources Center, haggard@uark.edu

I.M. Bailey, Formerly Biological Engineering Program, University of Arkansas, D.A. Zaharoff, Biomedical Engineering Department, University of Arkansas


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