Delmava Poultry sees big flaws in ammonia study

Landscaping around chicken houses. Delmarva Poultry Industry photo.

Delmava Poultry Industry has called into question a study of ammonia emissions from chicken houses in Maryland. The study from the University of North Carolina did not include Delaware.

Holly Porter, executive director of the Georgetown., DE-based trade group, stated that “Maryland’s family farmers raising chickens have played a key role in achieving the state’s well-documented progress in reducing nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay and improving water quality. Maryland has met its water-quality goals for reduced phosphorus seven years ahead of the 2025 deadline, in part because of reduced phosphorus loads from agriculture and despite rising phosphorus loads from cities and suburbs.”

Farmers in the watershed have reduced their nitrogen contribution to the Bay by 24 percent since the 1980s, even while nitrogen runoff from developed areas has risen.

Porter said the research was modeled in a way that bears“little resemblance to Maryland’s actual community of chicken farmers. The research assumes farmers uses no litter amendments — particles spread on chicken house litter that soak up ammonia from the air. In reality, the use of litter amendments is widespread on U.S. chicken farms because they reduce ammonia, producing a better environment for chickens and farmers.”

She also pointed to the study assuming that chicken houses contain birds at all times, when in reality, farmers clear the farmers empty the houses for maintenance and upgrades. The study also did not take into account forests and buffers act absorb ammonia.

“Even with these flawed assumptions in place, the model’s predicted ammonia levels on Delmarva fell far short of concentrations noticeable by people, or concentrations with any effect on human health,” Porter stated.

Emissions from chicken houses have been an area of concern in Maryland as the population on Delmarva increases and moves into agricultural areas. Growers have been advised to put up landscaping buffers as a way to remain good neighbors.

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