A new manure slurry treatment can reduce the amount of nitrogen lost through volatilization by up to 60 percent.

When manure is stored, nitrogen escapes through a process called volatilization. This loss of nitrogen through ammonia emissions not only leads to manure odors, but it changes the balance of nitrogen and phosphorus in the manure and that changes the amount that you can apply to crops.

However, researchers at USDA’s Agriculture Research Service have discovered a way to reduce nitrogen losses by up to 60 percent. Treating manure slurry with alum, an acidifying agent, or zeolite, a sequestering agent commonly used in cat litter, reduces the formation of ammonia emissions by 60 percent and 55 percent respectively. This reduction in ammonia emissions reduces nitrogen loss and helps maintain the nitrogen-to-phosphorus ratio at a level that is more suitable for crops. Researchers at ARS’ Animal and Natural Resources Institute in Beltsville, Md., say the treatments are safe, and cost-effective. Zeolite was applied at a rate of 6.25 percent of wet weight of manure slurry.