Farmers and horticulturalists are opting for natural nitrogen fertilisers in the face of ongoing pressure to reduce or stop using synthetic equivalents. Poultry litter distributors have reported a steady increase in demand from farmers for the waste product. Chicken litter is heavily sought after because its cheaper than synthetic nitrogen and good for soil health. Quin Environmentals managing director Bert Quin says It’s no secret that synthetic nitrates leach profusely and New Zealand produces about 900,000 tonnes of chicken litter each year. Most is used immediately on pasture, maize or other crops, and on kiwifruit and avocado orchards. Greenpeace delivered a 33,000-strong petition in January asking the Government to phase out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser. Then last week another petition called on the minister of health to lower the recognised safe limits for nitrates in drinking water. They wanted limits lowered after studies purported to show a link between nitrates and bowel cancer. Those findings have since been contested by Bowel Cancer NZ.