Trace element speciation in poultry litter

J Environ Qual. 2003 Mar-Apr;32(2):535-40. doi: 10.2134/jeq2003.5350.


Trace elements are added to poultry feed for disease prevention and enhanced feed efficiency. High concentrations are found in poultry litter (PL), which raises concerns regarding trace element loading of soils. Trace metal cation solubility from PL may be enhanced by complexation with dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Mineralization of organo-As compounds may result in more toxic species such as As(III) and As(V). Speciation of these elements in PL leachates should assist in predicting their fate in soil. Elemental concentrations of 40 PL samples from the southeastern USA were determined. Water-soluble extractions (WSE) were fractionated into hydrophobic, anionic, and cationic species with solid-phase extraction columns. Arsenic speciation of seven As species, including the main As poultry feed additives, roxarsone (ROX; 3-nitro-4-hydroxyphenylarsonic acid) and p-arsanilic acid (p-ASA; 4-aminophenylarsonic acid), was performed by ion chromatography-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (IC-ICP-MS). Total As concentrations in the litter varied from 1 to 39 mg kg(-1), averaging 16 mg kg(-1). Mean total Cu, Ni, and Zn concentrations were 479, 11, and 373 mg kg(-1), respectively. Copper and Ni were relatively soluble (49 and 41% respectively) while only 6% of Zn was soluble. Arsenic was highly soluble with an average of 71% WSE. Roxarsone was the major As species in 50% of PL samples. However, the presence of As(V) as the major species in 50% of the PL samples indicates that mineralization of ROX had occurred. The high solubility of As from litter and its apparent ready mineralization to inorganic forms coupled with the large quantity of litter that is annually land-applied in the USA suggests a potential detrimental effect on soil and water quality in the long term.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Chickens
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Manure*
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis*
  • Metals, Heavy / chemistry
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis
  • Solubility
  • Trace Elements / analysis*
  • Trace Elements / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants / analysis


  • Manure
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Trace Elements
  • Water Pollutants