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Poultry manure to enhance soil in southern Europe

A three year, €1.4m European Union LIFE project to look at how poultry manure could enhance soils across southern Europe is underway.

Soils in arid and semi-arid areas, such as parts of Spain, Italy and other southern European countries, are currently subject to intense degradation. The loss of organic matter reduces biological activity and fertility, leading to soil erosion in farming areas, marginalisation and abandonment of agricultural land and soil sealing.

Photo: Reina De Vries
Photo: Reina De Vries

Pig and poultry farms have a negative impact on air quality and can be an unpleasant source of odours. Emissions to air and the result of livestock rearing, manure storage and muckspreading. Poultry manure is often produced in restricted areas where poultry farming is concentrated, leading to nutrient redundancy and thus contributing to regional pollution of soil and water. When applied in excess, manure causes an over-supply of nutrients, which may have negative effects on water bodies.

The LIFE POREM (Poultry manure based bioactivator for better soil management through bioremediation) project is due to address both issues by showing how treated poultry manure can restore the organic matter content of soils on semi-arid and over-exploited land.

It involves creating experimental plots in Murcia (Spain), Apulia (Italy) and the Czech Republic. In order to guaranteed transferability and replicability of its soil restoration methods, the projects will provide tools for identifying and implementing best available techniques and accompanying technical training.

It will also provide public administrations that are responsible for soil with tools to assess soil restoration policies and agricultural management strategies.

The project is being coordinated by Calabrian-based pasta and egg company Gruppo Soldano and led by Maurizio Soldano, who hopes the project will be an example of industrial symbiosis and will contribute to the EU’s circular economy action plan.

Among the expected results are:

• An organic fertiliser bio-activator obtained from poultry manure with reduced odour impact (80% lower ammonia emissions), salinity (<5ds m) and 40% phosphorous contained in struvite compound>

• Increased soil fertility after 2 years in terms of organic matter content and edaphic fertility

• A 20% increase in bulk density and aggregates

• A 40% increase in soil organic carbon and water-soluble carbon

• An increase of 25% in total bacteria and fungi

• An increase of at least 35% in plant yield

• A 40% increase in total nitrogen and a 25% increase in total phosphorous

• Reduce inputs of mineral fertilisers and water for better soil management

• Proof of the technical and economic viability of using treated poultry manure as a bioactivator and estimates of the socio-economic impact of future applications

• A low cost technical guide to soil restoration and the application of treated poultry manure

The project will run until 30 September 2021.

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