Several years back we were put in touch with a large turkey farm near Grand Rapids that sells the giant double semi trailer loads of manure. Around here we call it “Turkey Pooh”! The turkey pooh is a great deal for us. Since conventional granular fertilizers have been going up with fuel prices, turkey pooh is a much less expensive alternative, and it has more micronutrients and organic material. The bad news is that it stinks pretty bad for a few days. Also it takes a lot more effort to get it spread.
Here’s the background on turkey manure in orchards. We have it delivered in the gravel trains with wood extensions on the sides to pile it high. Each load weighs about 100,000 lb of just manure. At 5,000 lbs per acre a load will do twenty acres of fruit trees. In the tart cherry orchards we are trying to apply 100 lbs per year of nitrogen. The manure is nice because it is “slow release” and the nitrogen is available to the roots for quite a few months. The fruit trees love it and they look great. Besides the smell there is another drawback. The turkey pooh is high in phosphorous which is a pollutant at higher levels. The fruit trees need phosphorous but they use it at a slower rate so it might build up in the soil. We soil test every year and when the phosphorous has built up to the upper level we will have to quit with the turkey pooh.
From a food safety standpoint manure in general has been attracting negative attention. We apply all of the manure in the fall so that it has had plenty of time to break down in the soil before any fruit crops are on the trees. In the end it is a win win deal for the cherry orchards and the turkey farms, and to our neighbors who are inconvenienced by the smell we appreciate your patience. Thank you