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Does the Sudden Influx of Broiler Production Impact Nearby Surface Water Quality?
Proceedings of the 2019 Mississippi Water Resources Conference

Year: 2019 Authors: Moore M.T., Locke M.A.


The United States has the largest broiler chicken industry in the world. Arkansas (1 billion head) and Mississippi (740 million head) are two of the five top broiler producing states. Although poultry is the largest agricultural commodity for both Arkansas and Mississippi, until recently, large-scale broiler production has generally been limited to a small number of clustered counties within each state. In 2014, an industry partner invested $165 million in two northeast Arkansas counties for a significant poultry complex, and by 2017, hundreds of new chicken houses were built within the Current, Upper Black, and Lower Black River watersheds. These were areas new to the broiler chicken industry, as most broiler production had occurred in the middle and extreme northwestern parts of the states. Water quality issues of high levels of phosphorus and nitrate in the Illinois River Basin in northwestern Arkansas had raised the concern of possible surface and ground water contamination by an overwhelming number of chicken houses. In northeast Arkansas, the primary rivers within these watersheds (Current and Black) provide surface water for recreation and agricultural needs. Aquatic diversity is high, and several endangered freshwater mussel species are present in these watersheds. Because of the potential concern for water quality impairment by the sudden influx of chicken houses, a small-scale evaluation began in December 2016 on a six- acre recreation pond immediately downstream of newly constructed chicken houses. Seasonal water quality and sediment sampling are underway for basic physicochemical parameters, nutrient, and pesticide concentrations. Water quality trends will be examined and discussed, along with opportunities and suggestions on research collaborations to ensure continued agricultural commodity production is harmonized with the surrounding natural resources.

2017 MWRRI Annual Report
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