Thermophilic anaerobic treatment of poultry litter produces an effluent stream of digested materials that can be separated into solid and liquid fractions for use as a crop fertilizer. The majority of the phosphorus is partitioned into the solid fraction while the majority of the nitrogen is present in the liquid fraction in the form of ammonium. These materials were tested over six years as an alternative fertilizer for the production of vegetable, fruit, and grassland crops. Application of the solids as a field crop fertilizer for vegetables and blueberries resulted in lower yields than the other fertilizer treatments, but an increase in soil phosphorus over a four-year period. Application of the digested liquids on grass and vegetable plots resulted in similar or superior yields to plots treated with commercially available nitrogen fertilizers. Hydroponic production of lettuce using liquid effluent was comparable to a commercial hydroponic fertilizer regime; however, the effluent treatment for hydroponic tomato production required supplementation and conversion of ammonium to nitrate. While not a total fertilizer solution, our research shows the effectiveness of digested effluent as part of a nutrient management program which could turn a livestock residuals problem into a crop nutrient resource.

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