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Inputs Monitor Editor Davis Michaelsen adds his perspective into the happenings of the inputs markets.

Turkey Fertilizer

Nov 27, 2013

Here's something to talk about at the Thanksgiving table... the nutritive qualities of turkey manure. Turkey production in the United states spiked in the early 1990's and has fallen slightly since then. In 2012, USDA/NRS reports 250 million head of turkeys were raised in the U.S.tkyprd

Most are grown in Minnesota and North Carolina but 13 states all contribute to national production. The nutrients in turkey manure are derived from their food source and the richest excrement comes from growerhouse litter at the end of a growing season.

The table below breaks down the nutrient values for N, P & K. Turns out, turkey manure stacks up pretty well against other poultry poo. The values listed in the table come from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service (NCCES) in pounds of nutrient per ton of material.

Total N lbs/ton
Ammonium NH4 +/- N lbs/ton
Phosphorus lbs/ton
Potassium lbs/ton
Turkey growerhouse litter
Fresh Turkey manure (no litter)
Duck growerhouse litter
Fresh Duck manure (no litter)
Chicken growerhouse litter
Fresh Chicken manure (no litter)


Chicken growerhouse litter outshines other manures for nutrient quality, but turkey growerhouseyou do know im not a turkey dont you happy thanksgiving to all our flickr friends l litter is a close second. High concentrations of NH4 mean N loss can be mitigated by incorporating the litter into the soil at application.

"Except for nitrogen, the availability of most nutrients in poultry manures is fairly consistent. Nitrogen can occur in several forms, each of which can be lost when subjected to different management or environmental conditions.

Nitrogen in poultry wastes comes from uric acid, ammonia salts, and organic (fecal) matter. The predominant form is uric acid, which readily transforms to ammonia (NH3), a gaseous form of nitrogen that can evaporate if not mixed into the soil. When it is thoroughly mixed, the ammonia changes to ammonium (NH4+), which can be temporarily held on clay particles and organic matter. Thus, soil mixing can reduce nitrogen losses and increase the amount available to plants," according to NCCES.

Fifty-seven pounds of nitrogen per ton is a fair amount for an organic source, but consider a single ton of anhydrous ammonia contains 1,700 lbs of actual nitrogen. Phosphorus and potassium levels are attractive in turkey manure as well, but as with nitrogen, fall well behind the concentrations offered by commercial P&K.

a small tribute to the turkey lAll poultry manure relays a decent smattering of micronutrients as well including calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, zinc and others.

Turkey manure is among the better sources of nutrient from poultry manure, but the levels of NPK are not high enough to support crop growth on their own. However, as a supplemental garden fertilizer, incorporation in the fall or two weeks out from planting would add a welcome shot of all three nutrients that one could supplement as needed through the life of the garden. If timed correctly, applications to row crop plots could also give a boost to early plant growth, but even at the top end of the scale at 57 lbsN/ton, commercial applications would have to follow.

They are delicious, they make us sleepy and their manure is nutrient rich. Though chicken manure outruns the nitrogen content of turkey litter, for one day each year, Thanksgiving belongs to the turkeys.

From all of us here at the Monitor, happy holidays and, as always, safety first.

Production graph provided by USDA/NASS

Chicken photo credit: Puzzler4879 / / CC BY-NC

Turkey photo credit: Douglas Brown / / CC BY-NC-SA