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Agronomic Services — News Release


CONTACT: J. Kent Messick
Field Services Section Chief, Agronomic Division
(919) 733-2655

Poultry producer works on greener pastures

GRANITE FALLS—Steve Anderson has been raising chickens for Case Farms for about six years, and for the last three, he has been their top producer. However, raising chickens is not the only thing Anderson does well. The composted chicken litter he produces is having an amazing effect on pasture land in his area.

"Anderson's operation yields 45 truckloads of poultry litter each year," said Lynn Howard, regional agronomist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. "Anderson has applied litter to the poorest land around, and, within two years, he has rejuvenated pastures that were previously full of weeds and bare spots. With litter, the grass just outcompetes the weeds and takes off."

When used as fertilizer, a little poultry litter goes a long way. After a few years of application, pasture soils are so rich in nutrients that all they need each year is a little additional nitrogen. In fact, litter improves the soil so much that Anderson is quickly running out places to put it.

"I'm concerned about the environment," Anderson said. "With Howard's help, I have the litter tested for nutrient content at the NCDA&CS Agronomic Division's waste analysis lab, and I have the soil tested before and after the litter is applied. Even though I use recommended agronomic rates, the litter is so nutrient rich that I can only put it out on the same land for a few years in a row before the soil reaches accepted limits for some micronutrients."

Anderson composts the litter from his poultry houses in a covered shelter called a dry stack. This storage method keeps the nutrients in the litter and prevents them from leaching out into the environment. The turning and composting process produces a high quality, spreadable product.

Litter not only provides ample plant nutrients, it also improves the soil by increasing its water-holding and nutrient-holding capabilities—qualities that were particularly important during the recent drought.

"Howard has shown me how to put a chicken house byproduct to good use," Anderson said. "I just need to find more farmers who are interested in improving their pastures."

The NCDA&CS Agronomic Division’s Field Services section offers advice and assistance in all aspects of crop nutrient management and agronomic testing, including soil testing, nematode assay, and plant, waste or solution analysis. Growers in Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Mitchell, Watauga or Wilkes counties can contact Lynn Howard at (828) 313-9982 or by e-mail at Growers in other N.C. counties who would like advice on crop nutrition can visit the Web site or contact Kent Messick at (919) 733-2655 for the name of their local regional agronomist.


Last Update August 1, 2007


NCDA&CS Agronomic Services Division, Colleen M. Hudak-Wise, Ph.D., Director
Mailing Address: 1040 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1040
Physical Address: 4300 Reedy Creek Road, Raleigh NC 27607-6465
Phone: (919) 733-2655; FAX: (919) 733-2837

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