Effect of Alum treatment on the concentration of total and Ureolytic microorganisms in poultry litter
Microbial mineralization of urea and uric acid in poultry litter results in the production of ammonia, which can lead to decreased poultry performance, malodorous emissions, and loss of poultry litter value as a fertilizer. Despite the fact that this is a microbial process, little is known about how the microbial populations, especially ammonia-producing (ureolytic) organisms in poultry litter, respond to litter amendments such as aluminum sulfate (Al2(SO4)3·14H2O; alum). The goal of this study was to measure the temporal changes in total bacterial and fungal populations and urease-producing microorganisms in nontreated litter or litter treated with 10% alum. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction was used to target the bacterial 16S rRNA gene, the fungal 18S rRNA gene, or the urease gene of bacterial and fungal ammonia producers in a poultry litter incubation study. Nontreated poultry litter had relatively high total (2.8 ± 0.8 x 1010 cells g–1 litter) and ureolytic (2.8 ± 1.3 x 108 cells g–1 litter) bacterial populations. Alum treatment reduced the total bacterial population by 50% and bacterial urease producers by 90% within 4 wk. In contrast, at 16 wk after alum treatment, the fungal population was three orders of magnitude higher in alum-treated litter than in nontreated litter (3.5 ± 0.8 x 107 cells g–1 litter and 5.5 ± 2.5 x 104 cells g–1 litter, respectively). The decrease in pH produced by alum treatment is believed to inhibit bacterial populations and favor growth of fungi that may be responsible for the mineralization of organic nitrogen in alum-treated litters.