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The Georgia poultry industry has experienced steady growth over the past decade, creating increased wealth and employment opportunities along with new challenges for the industry relative to resource utilization and waste management. Current estimates for Georgia indicate approximately 1.5 million tons of broiler litter generated per year in 1999, and that litter can be expected to increase with the poultry population at roughly 3% annually.

Poultry litter management and use has drawn national attention in recent years. In the eastern shore region of the Chesapeake Bay toxic outbreaks of Pfiesteria occurred in 1997, leading to restrictive land application legislation. While unclear, evidence suggests that nutrients may also directly stimulate the growth of Pfiesteria. In Georgia, agricultural nonpoint sources, including concentrated animal operations and spreading and/or disposal of animal wastes are suspected of introducing fecal contamination into waterbodies. While poultry farmers value litter for its nutrient-rich, soil-enhancing qualities, growing concerns exist that some users may be overapplying the material with a resulting negative impact on the surrounding environment.

Aggressive voluntary programs are underway for managing land application of litter, however, the industry is also committed to exploring future ways of using poultry litter and manure for potentially new, value-added products. Alternative technologies currently marketed include power-generating systems, fertilizer-production, and other novel options such as using litter as an ingredient for man-made building materials.

This paper discusses water quality and other environmental data and concerns associated with poultry litter land application and alternative handling approaches. To date, the economics in Georgia for transporting and converting broiler litter remains unclear, along with the water quality impacts associated with current practices. Georgia still faces the challenge of determining excess litter quantities available, the cost of collecting litter, and establishing a fair compensation price to motivate farmers to support the release of their litter to a long-term recovery scheme. Regardless of the future path taken, water and air quality impacts must be weighed when evaluating alternatives, especially in terms of benefits to required river basin management planning and air quality goals.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2001-01-01

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