In Utah, turkey is king!

According to a article, Sanpete County raises five million turkeys annually and supplies more than 90 million pounds of turkey meat to consumers. The turkey industry employs about 1100 people and, if you have ever been to the Moroni area to see the turkey farms, provides lots of gobble-gobble for Utahans to ‘gobble-up’ and then sleep-off after Thanksgiving dinner.

I have to admit that, when I give thanks before Thanksgiving dinner, I also reflect on things less appealing – like what exactly is in turkey manure? What, like you don’t wonder the same thing?!

Turkey in pen

Well Utah State University being the land-grant University it is, of course, has a factsheet to this exact topic. Here is a factsheet from our poultry specialist, Dr. David Frame, about the Nutrient Content of Utah Turkey Litter. Note* turkey manure has negligible amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus.Turkey Farm I think this is a really important point for gardeners to understand as I often hear of manure being applied as a ‘fertilizer’ as opposed to an ‘organic matter’ soil amendment source. In other words, it takes a lot of poo to meet the nutrient needs of plants and too much poo can have adverse environmental impacts. I stumbled upon this factsheet from University of Minnesota Extension that speaks directly to this point.  If you regularly apply manure to your garden, I highly advise you read it. And before you write-off turkey manure as just a load of crap, consider these fun poo facts:

  1. Although fresh manure is generally higher in N content, composted mature will generally add more organic matter to the soil.
  1. Fresh manure may be high in salts, weed seeds, and harmful pathogens so it is best to only apply well-composted manure to the garden.
  1. “The analysis of manure or compost provides total nutrient content, but availability of nutrients for plant growth will depend on their breakdown and release from the organic components. Generally, 70-80% of the phosphorus (P) and 80-90% of the potassium (K) will be available from manure the first year after applicationmanure (University of Minnesota factsheet ‘Using manure and compost as nutrient sources for fruit and vegetable crops’).
  1. “Usually 25 to 50% of the organic nitrogen in fresh manure is available the first year (University of Minnesota factsheet). The amount of plant available organic nitrogen is much lower the first year for composted manure as opposed to raw manure.
  1. Over application of manure can lead to “nitrogen leaching, phosphorus runoff, accelerated eutrophication of lakes, and excessive vegetative growth of some crops (University of Minnesota factsheet). So, just as you exercise caution to not ‘over-indulge’ at Thanksgiving dinner, do not over-do-it with additions of manures. One to three inches of well composted manure added annually to the garden soil in the fall is just about right – and a good way to work off your turkey dinner!

So make sure you serve your garden plants a turkey dinner too – but unlike you, give them just a little bit of poo!  They will thank you as they gobble up its nutrients next year – Gobble, Gobble!