What's that smell?
It isn't honeysuckles. The source of the foul odor permeating Dothan, Ala. for the past several days is most likely poultry manure being spread on Wiregrass farms to fertilize the soil.
A combination of wind direction and frequent rains has magnified the range and intensity, according to William Birdsong, an extension specialist with the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center in Headland.
"It will play itself out soon," Birdsong said. "We are during the season now where it is starting to wane down."
Farmers usually obtain the manure from area chicken houses, haul it to their fields and begin spreading. However, frequent rain over the past several weeks has kept farmers out of the field. Sometimes, farmers collect the manure and are forced to stack the product near the field due to an untimely thundershower. If the product is dry when it is stacked, the odor is relatively minimal. However, if it rains again before farmers can get the material on the field, the odor from the stack intensifies. Add in a strong breeze and the odor can spread for miles.
Birdsong said many farmers prefer the natural fertilizer to commercial fertilizer.
"Especially on the more sandy lands in eastern Houston County, near Gordon and Grangerburg, the soil can't hold on to the nutrients as well," Birdsong said. "Poultry litter acts as a slow release. Plus you have a lot of people wanting to be more organic and poultry litter is certified as an organic fertilizer source."
Birdsong said the litter generated from area poultry houses must go somewhere, and area crops are the most sensible recipients.
"I realize it is not popular. The general public doesn't like the foul odor. But, the most environmentally sound means of handling that product is using it as a soil amendment and spreading it out over the fields," Birdsong said.