RECENTLY, the mayor and residents of La Trinidad, Benguet went to court to ask for an environmental protection order against chicken manure dealers. The warehouses where the traders store their chicken dung produce unpleasant smell. Benguet, as we all know, is a vegetable growing province and chicken manure is used by vegetable gardeners as organic fertilizers.

As a Grade 5 kid who has a subject in gardening many years back, I already knew that chicken manure is used as fertilizer. I searched the internet for a scientific study to prove this and I found one. It was a research done in the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI)-Buguias Seedfarm and BPI-Baguio experimental farm from December 2013 to March 2016. Its objective was to evaluate the effects of organic fertilizers and mulching materials on selected highland vegetables.

The research, authored by Divina Jose entitled “Evaluation Of Organic Fertilizers On Selected Highland Vegetables,” concludes that “the application of chicken manure is recommended for lettuce, broccoli and carrot for enhancing heaviest weight of produce resulting in highest yield and highest return-on-investment.”

When I headed the wastepaper buying activity of our company, I recall that we get deliveries of old newspapers and office papers from Baguio and other towns in Benguet. Hauling cost is high so traders looked for other ways to maximize their trips. I learned that after delivering their wastepaper cargo, they go to nearby Magalang town to buy chicken manure.

Chicken manure is used as fertilizer because it is very high in nitrogen and also contains a good amount of potassium and phosphorus. But the high nitrogen in the chicken manure is dangerous to plants. Raw chicken manure fertilizer can burn, and even kill plants because of its high nitrogen content. Raw manure also contains pathogens which can contaminate crops intended for human consumption. Pathogens have the potential to cause human illness when consumers are exposed to them.

To safely use chicken manure, it needs to be composted first. Composting mellows the nitrogen and makes the manure suitable for the garden. It gives the manure time to break down some of the more powerful nutrients so that they are more usable by the plant. It takes about six to nine months, on average, for chicken manure compost to be done properly. This is probably the reason why the chicken dung in Benguet is stored first in warehouses.

The exact amount of time it takes for composting chicken manure depends on the conditions under which it is composted. The pathogens in chicken manure can also be reduced by composting. Some studies have shown that it takes six months to a year before pathogens are removed in the composted manure.

Fishpond owners also use chicken manure as a cheaper alternative to artificial fertilizer to increase phytoplankton production (natural fish food) in fish ponds. Just like in plants, the manure cannot be applied raw. It should be processed in the same way as organic manure for agriculture.