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MONDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Federal money might solve chicken manure problem

With all the chicken farms across North Alabama, it seems some energy money could be shifted this way for energy experiments such as those going on in Georgia.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave a Georgia dairy farmer $200,000 to install a system to convert cow manure into energy and fertilizer.

While we have plenty of cows, it would seem that such a system could also be set up to convert the tons of chicken manure that comes out of chicken houses before more chickens can be brought in to raise.

Chicken manure has always been considered a good fertilizer, just as cow manure is, but the prospects of converting the left-overs into energy is tantalizing.

Decatur and Morgan County are already into experimenting at the landfill. Currently, methane gas is being pumped from the fill and sold to industry. It's a good way to use a product that beforehand was either burned off or wasted when it went into the atmosphere.

The manure project uses anaerobic digesters, a technology developed following the energy crisis of the 1970s. It not only reduces odors from dairies (also a problem with chicken farms), but also converts cow manure into methane "biogas," which can be used to generate energy.

The digester also produces fertilizer that can be spread on fields and solid materials that can be used as bedding for cattle after composting.

Sounds like a good idea if cow manure and chicken manure are interchangeable.

Maybe that's a project for some of our county agents or state agricultural people to check with their counterparts in Washington.

A few hundred thousand sounds like little to pay to dispose of the chicken byproduct. We need to put that manure to work.

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