Changes for chickens? New hybrid corn helps reduce phosphorus in poultry litter, UD scientists report

Phosphorus in poultry droppings--a potential threat to water quality--can be dramatically reduced by feeding flocks a new hybrid of corn with more highly available phosphorus, plus an enzyme that helps chickens digest the mineral, University of Delaware and U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists say.

Total phosphorus levels dropped by 41 percent after chickens ate a modified diet containing the hybrid corn, reduced levels of supplemental phosphorus and the phytase enzyme, says George Malone, a UD poultry extension specialist and associate scientist. Better yet, he says, water-soluble phosphorus levels dropped by 82 percent, compared to the amount produced by poultry fed a standard commercial diet.

"The decrease in soluble phosphorus is particularly significant because soluble nutrients like phosphorus run off or pass more readily through the soil and into the water," Malone points out.

Victor Raboy, a research geneticist with the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA, Aberdeen, Idaho, agrees: "A 41 percent reduction in total phosphorus is a pretty big deal," he says. "This research can help the farming community make its contribution toward improved water quality."

On the Delmarva peninsula and elsewhere around the world, too many nutrients increase the risk of pollutants in water, while decreasing the amount of oxygen available for aquatic life. Nutrients move into the water from many sources, including homeowners' yards and gardens, Malone says. But, the effects of animal agriculture-especially poultry litter-are a key concern.

To help solve the problem, UD and USDA researchers teamed with leading poultry-industry companies. Support for the project was provided by Townsends, a Delaware-based poultry and agribusiness company; Optimum Quality Grains, a DuPont/Pioneer Joint Venture; and BASF Corp., a manufacturer of various poultry products. Optimum Quality Grains, in conjunction with Pioneer Hi-Bred International, as well as several ot

Contact: Ginger Pinholster
University of Delaware

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