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October 1, 2018

Sustainable Agriculture: Engineering a win-win solution for poultry litter

Lee Blaney's lab at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, smells somewhat like a barnyard, and with good reason. With support from the National Science Foundation, the environmental engineer and his team are extracting nutrients from poultry litter to create a new revenue stream for farmers and help the environment at the same time. Poultry litter is generally everything that is left behind on the floors of poultry houses, including manure, bedding, leftover feed, feathers and soil. It's rich in the nutrients phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium (NPK), a fertilizer cocktail that is good for crops but can end up in nearby waterways via agricultural runoff. The team's technology separates the NPK nutrients to create Struvite, a valuable slow-release fertilizer that farmers could sell. The left-over solids are rich in carbon and can be used on fields to help soil hold more nutrients and water.

Credit: National Science Foundation

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