Science Daily reports that researchers in China have discovered chicken manure can be used to biodegrade crude oil in contaminated soil. Writing in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution, the team explains how bacteria in chicken manure break down 50% more crude oil than soil lacking the manure.

Contamination of soil by crude oil occurs around the world because of equipment failure, natural disasters, deliberate acts, and human error. However, conventional approaches to clean-up come with additional environmental costs. Detergents, for instance, become pollutants themselves and can persist in the environment long after any remediation exercise is complete.

Bioremediation is a more environmentally benign approach which uses natural or engineered microbes that can metabolize the organic components of crude oil. Stimulating such microbial degradation in contaminated soil often involves the use of expensive fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus, and, again, may come with an additional environmental price tag despite the “bio” label. Soil hardening and a loss of soil quality often accompany this approach.

The research team of Bello Yakubu, Huiwen Ma, and ChuYu Zhang of Wuhan University, China, suggest that animal waste, and in particular chicken manure, may provide the necessary chemical and microbial initiators to trigger biodegradation of crude oil if applied to contaminated soil. One important factor is that chicken manure raises the pH of soil to the range 6.3 to 7.4, which is optimal for the growth of known oil-utilizing bacteria.

In tests, the team added chicken manure to soil contaminated with 10% volume-to-weight of crude oil to soil. They found that the almost 75% of the oil was broken down in soil with the fowl additive after about two weeks.

Learn more at online at Science Daily.