We are only recycling a surplus product
Peter Hatcher of Felixstowe-based John Hatcher, sole agent for Fibrophos, defends the power station operation. The large volumes of used poultry litter, either as wood shavings or chopped straw (Eye burns 120,000t A year), are more often considered a nuisance than a resource, he maintains. "It has been in over-supply in the past.
"Now much of it is being burnt, which perhaps increases its value. But we are really only recycling a surplus product." By doing so its nutrients, bar the nitrogen which he accepts is lost, can be made more widely available. "The Orkney Isles take 1000t a year." Unit for unit the P, K and trace elements in Fibrophos are no more expensive after allowing for on-farm handling costs, he claims.
Environmentally there are question marks over storing and spreading the litter on farms, he adds. "Nitrogen leaching is becoming a major issue. You cannot spread it at any time of year and yet it is produced all year round."
Mr Hatcher accepts the organic matter is lost in the recycling process. "But critics should bear in mind that it generates electricity which reduces fossil fuel usage." Rarely does poultry muck supply all a crops needs, so extra tractor passes using more fuel, are bound to be needed to top up with mineral fertiliser, he adds.