A dry manure spreader fitted with a sprayer may be at least a partial solution to meeting environmental demands placed on poultry litter applications, while at the same time increasing the nutrient availability of phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) in litter. The payoffs are improved corn yields, reduced tillage leading to less erosion and nutrient runoff, according to some field trials conducted by a retired University of Maryland researcher.

The spreader, offered by Chandler Equipment Company in Gainesville, Georgia, is fitted with a spray unit that allows one-pass application of poultry litter and More Than Manure® (MTM®) Nutrient Manager, a Verdesian Life Sciences product that helps increase plant availability of P and N from applied poultry litter and reduce losses of those nutrients to the environment. The spray unit can either be factory installed or retrofitted to existing Chandler dry manure spreaders and is offered on both pull-type and truck-mounted models.

Use of MTM previously required an additional pass to spray the product on applied poultry litter within 24 to 48 hours after application at a time when spray equipment is often tied up with other duties. The spreader/sprayer combination eliminates this extra trip, saving the farmer roughly $10 per acre. And, according to retired University of Maryland researcher Ron Mulford, application of MTM can also eliminate the need to incorporate the litter – another benefit with both production and environmental advantages.

Mulford, a practical research agronomist, conducted trials with MTM and poultry litter at two locations from 2009 through 2014. Initially, it was small plot work but then grew into larger, real-world farm conditions using full-scale, modern equipment. “When MTM-treated poultry litter was applied, we saw a consistent corn yield increase ranging from nine to 12 bushels per acre,” Mulford says. “The trials compared use of a Turbo Till for litter incorporation and use of MTM with no incorporation, and our data indicates the MTM-treated poultry litter performed as good as or even better than disking in some trials.”

The researcher notes that not having to incorporate poultry litter following application will be a big plus for no-tillers who want to preserve the integrity of their no-till systems. “With a good cover crop, not having to run a tillage implement will help reduce soil erosion and off-site movement of nutrients,” Mulford adds.

Kevin Anderson of Wimberly Farms, Inc., in Princess Anne, Maryland, was host to one of these trials and is using the retrofitted Chandler spreader for some poultry litter and MTM applications on his operation. “The corn yield increases got my attention,” says the farmer. “And it appears that applying MTM over the top of the litter is just as effective as incorporation. Probably the biggest benefit to me is being able to keep my no-till system intact.”

Ben Hushon, a partner and crop production manager for agricultural retailer The Mill on the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, worked closely with Mulford and area farmers on the litter-MTM trials. “We have seen consistent, replicated and repeatable results from these trials with MTM, and we see the corn yield increases every time,” Hushon explains. “We’re looking at a product that performs every time and which doesn’t add hours to the farmer’s workday. Plus, we see plenty of evidence that more P and N from the litter is being taken up by the corn, versus being left in the soil.”

Hushon calls the Chandler dry manure spreader fitted with the spray kit “a major breakthrough” for farmers using poultry litter. “I think that MTM-treated litter will allow farmers to reduce their purchases and application of conventional fertilizer because they are getting more value out of the manure resources they already have,” he says. “Farmers in the Delmarva region continue to become more environmentally conscious and responsible, and these are good tools for them to address these challenges.”

According to Hushon, another environmental benefit offered by MTM involves a reduction in odors associated with litter applications. “In the Northeast, our farmers face a lot of increasing residential pressure,” he explains. “Many of our farmers using MTM-treated poultry litter report less odor and fewer complaints following application. From a community-relations standpoint, this is a big plus.”