Fertilizer research

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 165–170 | Cite as

Feather meal, a semi-slow-release nitrogen fertilizer for organic farming

  • Aviva Hadas
  • Larissa Kautsky


Plant nutrition in organic farming is based entirely on decomposition of organic materials, and release of excess N superfluous to the microbial population. Feather meal (FM), a by-product of the poultry processing industry, which contains 15% N as non-soluble keratin, is a potential organic N fertilizer. The objective of this study was to determine the rate of N mineralization and changes in microbial activity following the application of FM to soil. Soils were incubated with FM for 8 weeks at 30°C and optimal water content, and analyzed periodically for inorganic N, rate of CO2 evolution, counts of microbial populations, and activity of dehydrogenase and protease. Approximately 45, 55 and 65% of fertilizer N were released after 1, 2, and 8 weeks, respectively. Total number of bacteria increased due to the addition of FM after only 1 d, with a second pulse obtained at 14 d. Dehydrogenase activity followed a similar response cycling. Cellulose hydrolyzing bacteria and proteolitic bacteria increased later, between 5 and 21 d, probably due to secondary microbial decay products. Microbial biomass N at 5 to 7 d accounted for 10 to 14% of total FM-N, therefore the slow release of N from FM was due in part to its resistance to decomposition and in part to microbial biomass build-up and secondary decomposition.

Key words

CO2 evolution feather meal microbial populations N fertilizers N mineralization organic fertilizers soil enzyme activity 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alexander M (1961) Introduction to Soil Microbiology, pp 310–311. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson JPE (1982) Soil respiration. In: Page ALet al. (eds) Methods of Soil Analysis, Agronomy 9, Part 2, 2nd edn, pp 831–871. American Society of Agronomy, Madison, WIGoogle Scholar
  3. Bielorai R, Iosif B, Neumark H and Alumot E (1982) Low nutritional value of feather-meal protein for chicks. J Nutr 112: 249–254Google Scholar
  4. Brookes PC, Landman A, Pruden G and Jenkinson DS (1985) Chloroform fumigation and release of soil nitrogen: A rapid direct extraction method to measure microbial biomass nitrogen in soil. Soil Biol Biochem 17: 837–842Google Scholar
  5. Ciavatta C, Gavi M, Vittori Antisari L and Sequi P (1990) An enzymatic approach to the determination of the degree of stabilization of organic carbon in fertilizers. Fert Res 25: 167–174Google Scholar
  6. Hadas A and Rosenberg R (1992) Guano as a nitrogen source for fertigation in organic farming. Fert Res 31: 209–214Google Scholar
  7. Hadas A, Bar-Yosef B, Davidov S and Sofer M (1983) Effect of pelleting, temperature and soil type on mineral nitrogen release from poultry and dairy manures. Soil Sci Soc Am J 47: 1129–1133.Google Scholar
  8. Hoffman Y and Teicher K (1957) Enzyme systems of our durable soils. VII Proteases. Pflanzenern Dung Bodenkd 77: 243–251Google Scholar
  9. Tabatabai MH (1982) Soil enzymes. In: Page ALet al. (eds) Methods of Soil Analysis. Agronomy 9, Part 2, pp 937–940. American Society of Agronomy, Madison, WIGoogle Scholar
  10. Wollum AG II (1982) Cultural methods for soil microorganisms. In: Page ALet al. (eds) Methods of Soil Analysis. Agronomy 9, Part 2, 2nd edn, pp 791–796. American Society of Agronomy, Madison, WIGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aviva Hadas
    • 1
  • Larissa Kautsky
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Soils and WaterARO, The Volcani CenterBet DaganIsrael

Personalised recommendations