International collaboration transforms chicken manure into fertiliser

Collaboration brought researchers from Brazil and the US together
calendar icon 7 July 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

An international collaboration between researchers from Brazil and the United States has identified a process for turning poultry waste into a soil additive for agriculture, according to a news release from Canadian Light Source.

“Several countries have large poultry production, especially United States and Brazil, where agriculture is also concentrated,” said Aline Leite, a Post Doctoral researcher from the Federal University of Lavras in Brazil. “So, reusing a global residue generated in large amounts is an interesting way of promoting a circular economy.”

The researchers harvested poultry manure from an experimental site in the United States, and then heated it up to create biochar, a carbon-rich substance that can be used as a soil additive to replenish nutrients like phosphorus.

Leite said they are focused on understanding the mechanisms responsible for increasing phosphorus availability in mineral-rich sources, such as manure.

Poultry manure is full of calcium and requires higher temperature treatments to turn the waste into biochar, the news release explained. But the higher temperatures can have an effect on the amount of phosphorus available.

In order to ensure that the biochar contained sufficient available phosphorus, the researchers enriched it with magnesium, which protected the phosphorus from the heat and enabled it to form more soluble forms of phosphorus.

Using the IDEAS and VLS-PGM beamlines at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan (USask), the researchers were able to visualize the connection between phosphorus and magnesium and confirm the success of their technique.

Their findings were recently published in the scientific journal, Chemosphere.

While phosphorus reserves are found across the globe, the nutrient is a finite resource. Finding ways to recycle the mineral is an important issue for scientists.

“There's no excuse for not using the phosphorus that is already in the food chain, for example, by reusing the waste that is already generated,” said Leite.

Leite says that synchrotron technology is essential for research into agricultural applications.

“This technology is extremely important for agriculture because it helps determine the concentration and forms of elements that are essential for plant growth,” Leite said. “By accessing the distribution of elements and understanding potential impacts, it gives us a great perspective for sustainable agriculture. The effective use of this technology in the study was only possible due to an international collaboration with researchers of different backgrounds.”

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