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EFFORTS TO RELIEVE WORLD HUNGER


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Author Topic: EFFORTS TO RELIEVE WORLD HUNGER  (Read 745 times)
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« on: June 18, 2009, 12:05:10 pm »






Public release date: 3-Dec-2007



Contact: Jeff Haskins
jhaskins@burnesscommunications.com
86-136-931-76573
Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research







        China's new high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat boosting domestic production as world prices soar





Chinese scientists responsible for developing innovative wheat varieties recognized with international award for "Outstanding Agricultural Technology"
BEIJING (3 December 2007)--An intensive domestic research effort to bolster China’s wheat production has over the last four years produced new high-quality, high-yielding varieties that already have added 2.4 million tons to Chinese harvests and generated an extra US$411 million in farm income. The new varieties also offer natural resistance to a new strain of wheat stem rust now emerging as a threat to global food security, according to a new assessment from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS).

In recognition of their contribution to Chinese grain production and international crop science, the Consultative Group for International Agriculture Research (CGIAR) announced today that its 2007 Regional Award for Outstanding Agricultural Technology in the Asia-Pacific Region will go to a Chinese wheat improvement team. The team comprises scientists from CAAS and the Shandong Academy of Agricultural Science (SAAS). The award was presented here at the CGIAR Annual General Meeting.

The success of Chinese plant breeders in boosting the size and sustainability of domestic wheat production is well timed, as soaring wheat prices in global markets are making grain imports particularly costly. In addition, the recent discovery that one of the new varieties has natural resistance to a rapidly spreading and potentially devastating form of wheat stem rust could be critical to sustaining wheat production worldwide.

“Now that these new wheat varieties have been sown on more than 8 million hectares, we can see how important they are likely to become to China’s wheat production capacity,” said He Zhonghu of CAAS. “They are particularly important in the area of disease resistance. It is not just the farmers who are benefiting. These new varieties are yielding a high-quality grain that food manufacturers say is producing superior wheat noodles and pan bread for Chinese consumers.”

“These new wheat varieties developed by China’s wheat improvement team possess what every crop scientist seeks but only rarely achieves,” said Ren Wang, director of the CGIAR. “In addition to offering bigger harvests and higher quality wheat, the recent finding that they are endowed with natural resistance to the strain of stem rust we’re seeing spread throughout East Africa is just more evidence of their outstanding quality.”

From 2002 to 2006, a team of scientists from CAAS and SAAS developed three improved wheat varieties for Chinese farmers that are five to seven percent more productive than previous varieties. In addition, their superior quality for bread and noodle production has made them particularly popular among Chinese milling and food manufacturers and allowed Chinese farmers to earn an additional US $101 million in “quality” premiums.

Scientists also recently discovered that one of the varieties, known as Jimai 20, is the only Chinese wheat cultivar—and one of the few in the world—to show high resistance to a new and virulent strain of destructive wheat stem rust that originated in East Africa and has now spread to the Arabian peninsula. International wheat experts have been alarmed that most of the world’s wheat varieties appear susceptible to the disease, which can reduce harvests by as much 70 percent.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the disease could end up posing a threat to global food security. Wind models show it has the potential to spread to farms throughout the Middle East and South Asia, which collectively account for 25 percent of the global wheat harvest.


http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-12/bc-cnh120307.php
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« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2009, 12:07:19 pm »










                                              Boost for Africa's depleted soils 







The project will focus on small-scale farmers, most of whom are women.


A $180m (£90m) five-year project to revive sub-Saharan Africa's depleted soils has been launched in
Nairobi.


The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa's (AGRA) Soil Health Program will work with 4.1 million farmers
to regenerate 6.3m hectares of farmland.

Organisers hope the scheme will boost farmers' incomes, improve crop yields and protect the region's soils.

Initial funding has been provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

"Currently, farm yield in Africa is one-quarter of the global average, and one-third of Africans face chronic hunger," said Dr Namanga Ngongi, AGRA's president.

"We know that the use of high quality seeds, combined with the rejuvenation of African soils, can begin to
turn around this dismal situation."
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« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2009, 12:09:03 pm »







Focus on women





The programme will give particular attention to women, who make up the majority of small-scale farmers,
who are best placed to know how various crops fare in local soils, explained Dr Akin Adesina, AGRA's vice
president for policy and partnerships.

 
Improving soil fertility will boost crop yields and incomes for farmers

"No one size can fit all," he said. "We will work with farmers and researchers to develop locally adaptable
soil interventions."

Unsustainable practises in recent decades had led to soil degradation in the region. For example, continuous cultivation of land without replacing nutrients taken up by crops had led to a fall in soil fertility.

Degraded soils were also prone to erosion and were unable to retain moisture.

Researchers said the poor conditions meant that farmers were more likely to clear forests and savannahs as
they searched for arable land.

"AGRA's goal of enabling small-scale farmers to produce more on less land will have multiple social, economic
 and environmental benefits," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme,
which is one of the project's partners.

""It can reduce the pressure to clear new land for agriculture, which in turn can assist in countering
deforestation, conserving biodiversity and triggering improved management of Africa's wealth of natural
and nature-based assets."

The Soil Health Program will form one aspect of the organisation's work to improve the plight of the region's farmers in the global agriculture sector.

It will also work with the continent's institutions to improve the information, education and training offered
to farmers, workers, students and scientists.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/highlands_and_islands/7209608.stm
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« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2009, 12:12:27 pm »










                                              Italians in plant growth advance


                                    Hormone study promises longer roots for dry areas






 (ANSA) -
Rome,
November 28 - 2008

Italian researchers have made an advance in plant-growth research that promises to stretch roots so more species can grow in arid areas and the fruits of other plants will be healthier without having to use fertilisers.

The researchers, led by Rome University's Sabrina Sabatini, unlocked the mechanism that controls the two main plant-growth hormones, auxin and cytokine.

By modifying the genes of the two growth factors - rather than introducing new genes as tried by other researchers - Sabatini said her team had changed the way plants grow.

''In practice, we accelerate the process of evolution, obtaining results in two years that in Nature would require an extremely long time,'' she told the prestigious journal Science.

Sabatini, who recently helped reverse Italy's 'brain drain' by returning from the United States thanks to a grant from a foundation called Armenise, said the research would ''enable man to intervene in the stage of transition before a plant decides what it's going to be''.

By modulating the levels of the two hormones, scientists will be able to control the length of roots so that shorter ones aren't affected by salty water, enabling them to bear more fruit, and longer ones can tap into deep-lying reserves in drought-hit zones.

Sabatini's findigns were put into practice by Paolo Costantini of the genetics and molecular biology department of the Academia dei Lincei.
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« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2009, 12:14:13 pm »










                               Desert Plant May Hold Key To Surviving Food Shortage






ScienceDaily
(June 23, 2008)

— Scientists at the University of Liverpool are investigating how a Madagascan plant could be used to help produce crops in harsh environmental conditions.
The plant, Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi, is unique because, unlike normal plants, it captures most of its carbon dioxide at night when the air is cooler and more humid, making it 10 times more water-efficient than major crops such as wheat. Scientists will use the latest next-generation DNA sequencing to analyse the plant’s genetic code and understand how these plants function at night.

The project will generate a genome sequence database that will be used as an Internet resource for plant biologists throughout the world.

The research comes at a time when farmland across the globe normally used for growing food such as rice and wheat is being taken over by bio-fuel crops used for bioethanol production as a petrol substitute. Scientists believe that the novel genes found in Kalanchoe could provide a model of how bio-fuel plants could be grown on un-utilised desert and semi-arid lands, rather than on fertile farmland needed for producing food.

Biological scientist, Dr James Hartwell, said: “There is a lot of concern over food shortage at the moment, with more farmland being commandeered for bio-fuels. As a result of changes in our climate the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted a large expansion of arid regions so there is an increasing need for new crop varieties that can be productive in deserts.

“Kalanchoe is a good example of how plants can flourish in harsh environments. If we can understand how it is able to photosynthesise using much less water than current crops, we may be able to use its genetic code to develop a crop able to withstand harsh environmental conditions. It is essential that farmland be returned to food production.”

The genetic code of the plant will be deciphered using a DNA sequencing machine that uses an enzyme found in fireflies as a flash light to help read the DNA strand.

Liverpool is one of only two universities in the UK with the technology, which can read up to half a billion DNA letters in a few hours compared to more widely used technology that can only process 50,000.

The project is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Adapted from materials provided by University of Liverpool, via AlphaGalileo.
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« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2009, 12:17:02 pm »



              Tommy Bass, MSU Extension livestock environment associate specialist,
              stands atop a pile of manure.

              (Credit: MSU photo by Kelly Gorham)
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« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2009, 12:18:32 pm »









                                    Manure 'Smells Like Money' As Energy Costs Rise







ScienceDaily
(Sep. 10, 2008)

— With energy prices driving the cost of agricultural inputs up, nutrient-rich manure is getting another look.

"Calls to Extension offices from people looking for manure and manure compost have increased in recent months," says Tommy Bass, Montana State University Extension livestock environment associate specialist.

Bass said that this shift in perception is good for water quality, too.

"As manure gains value, it is likely to be used more efficiently and effectively. There's a potential for increased revenue for animal feeding operations," he said.

Though MSU Extension and conservation professionals have taught for years that manure can be a valuable asset, it's often written it off as a difficult-to-manage byproduct with cumbersome regulations.

Now, with fertilizer prices hovering at $1,000 per ton, the nitrogen and other nutrients in manure look more gold than brown.

Bass said that a ton of manure contains between $30 to $40 dollars worth of nutrients for the soil, though they're not all available the first year.

"Expect a quarter to a half of the nitrogen to be available in the first season," he said, "The remainder is partially available the next year and partially lost to the atmosphere."

Fresh scraped and stacked dairy and beef manure can have a total nitrogen content ranging between 12 and 25 pounds of nitrogen per ton of manure, while the same ton may also have 9 to 18 pounds of phosphorus fertilizer equivalent.

"The nutrient content of manure varies for different species and different manure management systems, but it is all valuable," he said.

Nitrogen and phosphorus are not the only valuable nutrients in manure. Potassium and a variety of micro-nutrients are also present.

In addition to specific nutrients, the high organic content of manure and manure compost improves soil quality, and its improved texture improves its water and nutrient holding capacity.

About 70 to 90 percent of phosphorus and potassium can be available the first year. Phosphorus not used by the plant persists longer in the soil and will remain available if erosion and run-off are controlled.

When applying manure based on the nitrogen needs of a crop, phosphorus will inherently be over applied or exceed the crop's annual use of phosphorus, however it can be taken up by crops in subsequent years. Fields with significant residual soil test phosphorus may need a rest from manure applications. In that case only a commercial nitrogen product needs to be applied to meet nutrient requirements and production goals.
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« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2009, 12:20:32 pm »









Considering possible variation associated in nutrient availability from manure, careful consideration should be given to how it is incorporated into an overall fertility plan.

"Attempting to replace all the nitrogen required by a high value wheat crop with manure sources carries a risk of lost production, if all the projected nutrients do not become available to the plant," Bass said. However, he recommends using manure strategically as a nutrient source in conjunction with commercial fertilizer.

The cost of applying manure also needs to be considered, he said, along with other costs such as renting or hiring of spreading equipment, fuel and an operator's time.

Using manure wisely can offset some commercial fertilizer purchases, while providing additional micronutrients and valuable organic matter to the soil.

As with any fertilizer, application rates should be based on a recent soil test and the particular crop's nutrient needs. An overall nutrient management plan is needed to meet production goals and protect natural resources. For some animal feeding operations such a plan is required as part of their permit.

With recognition of the increased fertilizer value of manure, it is being sold or traded for different services or goods around the country. Historically manure usually was only used or shipped within a few miles of its source. In some cases, it is now economically feasible to ship it increased distances. Manure hauling and brokerage businesses have popped up in which the company will clean out manure storage facilities in exchange for the product; they in turn sell it to another party. Other producers sell and trade with neighbors or build partnerships with commercial nurseries and compost manufacturers. Animal feeding operations with their own forage or crop production can benefit greatly from their onsite manure resources.

Manure is also being used to create energy through digesters that produce bio-gas capable of generating electricity or heat for farm and ranch buildings. Whether it is used for fertilizer, as an ingredient in compost or for energy production, the value of manure is being recognized for a variety of beneficial uses.

"To people making a living off the land, manure smells like money," Bass said.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Adapted from materials provided by Montana State University.
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« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2009, 12:22:26 pm »



               

The water on the left collected in a solids-separation basin at the low end of the feedlot pen (on the right) after a rain. After the solids settle, the water in the basin will be distributed throughout the vegetative treatment area.

(Credit: Photo by Stephen Ausmus)
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« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2009, 12:25:59 pm »









                                           New Option For Managing Manure






ScienceDaily
(Nov. 26, 2007)

— A typical 1,000-head beef feedlot produces up to 280 tons of manure in just one week. That's a lot of manure—and for hundreds of U.S. cattle feedlots, disposal is an important management issue.

Fortunately, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in the Environmental Management Research Unit at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) at Clay Center, Neb., have developed and tested a new method of runoff control.

In the United States, feedlot runoff is often stored in a large pond or basin. From there, it is either distributed as nutrient-rich irrigation water or processed for safe disposal. This method is approved by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but is far from perfect. Over time, nutrients can percolate through the soil into groundwater. Also, pond maintenance is expensive and difficult.

Research leader John Nienaber worked with agricultural engineers Roger Eigenberg and Bryan Woodbury to design an alternative system, in which runoff containing manure solids enters temporary storage basins at the base of the sloped feedlot.

The basin is large enough to hold runoff for several hours to allow the solid waste to settle to the bottom. The remaining liquid is then drained through distribution tubes that provide even dispersal over a grassy field or "vegetative treatment area" (VTA).

The VTA system, conditionally approved by EPA, has many benefits. It requires minimal management, significantly reduces waste storage time, eliminates the need for costly runoff pumping, and removes standing water.

This manure-disposal technology could also be applied to other livestock. The system should be less expensive to construct and maintain than the traditional system, though the cost and suitability would vary with topography, climate and animal type.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------




Adapted from materials provided by US Department of Agriculture.
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« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2009, 12:27:56 pm »









                    Minimal Composting Of Beef Cattle Manure Greatly Reduces Antibiotic Levels







ScienceDaily
(Oct. 14, 2008)

— Composting beef cattle manure, even with minimal management, can significantly reduce the concentrations of antibiotics in the manure, according to an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) pilot study. The scientists found that composting manure from beef cattle could reduce concentrations of antibiotics by more than 99 percent.

Osman Arikan, a visiting scientist from Istanbul Technical University, and ARS microbiologists Patricia Millner and Walter Mulbry at the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, in Beltsville, Md., looked at varying levels of manure management, including plain manure piles, and manure piles with straw added. They found that adding straw to manure piles tends to result in higher temperatures that speed up the process of degrading antibiotics as well as pathogens.

The use of antibiotics as therapeutic agents is widespread in the animal production industry. Scientific studies have shown that, depending on the antibiotic and type of animal, between 20 to 75 percent of antibiotics administered to animals is excreted via urine and feces. So it's important that these residues are broken down during composting to prevent their release into the environment.

Arikan, Millner, and Mulbry evaluated the efficacy of a series of minimal-management options for on-farm manure composting to reduce concentrations of the antibiotics oxytetracycline and chlorotetracycline. The treatments were designed to span a range of management options from simply piling up the manure to mixing it with an equal volume of straw (to increase aeration within the compost pile) and adding insulating layers of straw.

Results show that manure-only pile temperatures and the concentrations of antibiotics were significantly influenced by treatment over a 28-day period. Concentrations of oxytetracycline and chlorotetracycline incubated at ambient temperature decreased 75 percent and 90 percent, respectively.

Oxytetracycline and chlorotetracycline concentrations in samples incubated for 28 days within an amended manure pile decreased 91 percent and 99 percent, respectively. Although manure piles amended with straw attained higher temperatures and more rapid decreases in antibiotic concentrations, there is currently no compelling justification for producers to expend additional resources needed to achieve the more rapid rates of antibiotic removal. Pathogen reduction in manure piles requires careful and consistent management to ensure all parts of the pile are treated.


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Adapted from materials provided by USDA/Agricultural Research Service.
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« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2009, 12:29:57 pm »









              Manure Management Reduces Levels Of Antibiotics And Antibiotic Resistance Genes






ScienceDaily
(Dec. 3, 2007)

— Antibiotic resistance is a growing human health concern. Researchers around the globe have found antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals to be present in surface waters and sediments, municipal wastewater, animal manure lagoons, and underlying groundwater. Researchers at Colorado State University (CSU) describe a study to find out if animal waste contributes to the spread of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes (ARG), and if they can be reduced by appropriate manure management practices.

In the study researchers investigated the effects of manure management on the levels of antibiotics and ARG in manures. The study was conducted at two scales. In the pilot-scale experiment, horse manure was spiked with the antibiotics chlortetracycline, tylosin, and monensin and compared to horse manure that was not spiked with antibiotics to determine the response of ARG in unacclimated manures. In the large-scale experiment, dairy manure and beef feedlot manure, which were already acclimated to antibiotics, were monitored over time.

The manures were subjected to high-intensity management (HIM-amending with leaves and alfalfa, watering, and turning) and low-intensity management (LIM-no amending, watering, and turning) for six months. During this time, the levels of antibiotics were monitored using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS). In addition, two types of ARG that confer resistance to tetracycline, tet(W) and tet(O), were monitored using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR).

In the pilot study, chlortetracycline, tylosin, and monensin all dissipated more rapidly in the HIM-manure than in the LIM-manure. In the large-scale study, feedlot manure initially had higher concentrations of the several tetracycline antibiotics than the dairy manure. After four months of treatment, tet(W) and tet(O) decreased significantly in dairy manure, but two more months of treatment were necessary for similar reductions of ARG in the feedlot manures.

The results showed that HIM was more effective than LIM at increasing the rate of antibiotic dissipation, but it was not a significant factor in reducing the levels of ARG. The length of treatment time was the main factor in reducing the levels of both antibiotics and ARG. For manures with initially high levels of antibiotics, treatment times of at least six months may be necessary for a significant reduction in levels of antibiotics and ARG. The results also provided evidence that ARG may be present for extended time periods even after antibiotics have fully dissipated.

Scientists at Colorado State University are continuing research in this area by examining full-scale local on-farm waste management practices. Together this research will lead to a better understanding of possible ARG mitigation strategies so that best management practices can be developed to reduce the effects that animal waste may have on the spread of ARG.

This research was published in the November-December issue of Journal of Environmental Quality. Funding was provided by the USDA Agricultural Experiment Station at CSU and the National Science Foundation (NSF).


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Adapted from materials provided by American Society of Agronomy.
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« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2009, 12:31:32 pm »










                          Microbes In Manure Can Minimize Potential Pharmaceutical Pollution







ScienceDaily
(Feb. 1, 2006)

— Bacteria are usually viewed as “the enemy” and targeted with potent antibiotics to curb their ability to cause infection. But according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists, microbes--including several types of bacteria--can be a farmer’s ally when it comes to reducing the risk that antibiotic-containing manure may pose to the environment.

Livestock and poultry producers rely on antibiotics to treat a host of diseases and infections. In fact, more than 21 million pounds of antibiotics were administered to U.S. farm animals and pets in 2004. Such treatments help promote animals’ health and well-being, in addition to ensuring a safe food supply for consumers.

The trouble is, when animals excrete in their waste antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals that their bodies don’t use, the compounds may linger in the environment. This so-called pharmaceutical pollution can encourage bacteria to mutate and form strains that are resistant to current antibiotics.

Scott Yates, a soil scientist with ARS’ George E. Brown, Jr. Salinity Laboratory in Riverside, Calif., wanted to find out what happens to antibiotic-laced manure once it’s mixed with soil, as typically happens when livestock manure is spread onto farm fields as a fertilizer.

Yates and colleague Qiquan Wang studied one commonly administered veterinary antibiotic, sulfadimethoxine, which is used to combat a number of diseases in livestock and pets.

They developed a mathematical model which revealed that thriving manure microbes play an important role in determining how quickly sulfadimethoxine degrades. Some microbes in manure can digest and inactivate the excreted antibiotic.

According to Yates and Wang, farmers should try to create a hospitable environment for these tiny helpers. They should store waste from treated animals in a warm, moist place for as long as possible before spreading it onto fields. This gives the beneficial soil microbes an opportunity to act on an antibiotic, before it has the chance to leach into soils and waterways.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------




Adapted from materials provided by USDA/Agricultural Research Service.
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« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2009, 12:33:33 pm »










                           Human Hair Combined With Compost Is Good Fertilizer For Plants







ScienceDaily
(Dec. 31, 2008)

— Agricultural crop production relies on composted waste materials and byproducts, such as animal manure, municipal solid waste composts, and sewage sludge, as a necessary nutrient source. Studies have shown that human hair, a readily available waste generated from barbershops and hair salons, combined with additional compost, is an additional nutrient source for crops.

Although human hair has become commercially available to crop producers in the past couple years, it has not been proven to be an exclusive source of nutrients in greenhouse container production.

Vlatcho D. Zheljazkov, Juan L. Silva, Mandar Patel, Jelena Stojanovic, Youkai. Lu, Taejo Kim, and Thomas Horgan of Mississippi State University recently published a research study in HortTechnology designed to determine whether commercially available noncomposted hair waste cubes would support plant growth in horticulture crops as a sole source of nutrients.

The study compared the productivity of four crops: lettuce, wormwood, yellow poppy, and feverfew, grown in commercial growth medium using untreated control, noncomposted hair cubes at differing weights, a controlled-release fertilizer and a water-soluble fertilizer. Results showed that, with the addition of hair waste cubes, yields increased relative to the untreated control but were lower than yields in the inorganic treatments, suggesting that hair waste should not be used as a single source for fast-growing plants such as lettuce.

Zheljazkov suggests that, "once the degradation and mineralization of hair waste starts, it can provide sufficient nutrients to container-grown plants and ensure similar yields to those obtained with the commonly used fertilizers in horticulture. However, it takes time for the hair to start degrading and releasing nutrients, as is reflected in lower yields in the hair treatments relative to the inorganic fertilizers for lettuce and wormwood."

Because of possible health concerns, further research is necessary to determine whether human hair waste is a viable option as fertilizer for edible crops.

The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortTechnology electronic journal web site.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------




Journal reference:

Valtcho D. Zheljazkov et al. Human Hair as a Nutrient Source for Horticultural Crops. HortTechnology, 18: 549-745 (2008) [link]
Adapted from materials provided by American Society for Horticultural Science.
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« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2009, 12:34:52 pm »











                  Recycled Paper And Compost Could Both Be Key Tools To Control Plant Disease







ScienceDaily
(Sep. 26, 2006)

— New research by the University of Warwick should have gardeners and commercial growers competing for both recycled paper and organic waste composts. The University's plant research department, Warwick HRI, is finding that recycled paper based composts are proving to be a major weapon in the fight against a range of plant diseases.

A University of Warwick research team under Professor Ralph Noble has recently shown that the use of composts can reduce the incidence of some important plant diseases by as much as 72%. That research, funded by the UK government's Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP), found that the replacement of around 20% of the volume of soil or peat by compost gave major disease control benefits.

Professor Ralph Noble's latest research appears to add another ecological benefit. Early results from trials with conifers using compost made from paper waste shows that it is providing much the same disease suppressing effect as green compost made from plant waste. This provides an obvious additional commercial use for the vast amount of paper waste generated by offices and homes.

Professor Noble said: "During paper recycling production a large proportion of the fibres cannot be recycled. The useable fibres are taken out to make new newsprint, and the small fibres are no longer usable, they're a waste by-product. In Britain, about half a million tonnes of these small, unusable fibres are produced each year. They have a potential use in growing media because they hold a lot of water, just like peat and, being a waste product, they have no other value. Obviously materials that are going to replace peat have to be very cheap or waste by-products. So, paper wastes fit this bill in terms of being cheap and they also hold a lot of water, which is what you need for plant growth".

The suppression of plant diseases was particularly noticeable when the green and recycled paper composts were added to peat. Peat is used by many growers as it provides a clean and uniform material that is suitable for plant growth -- but its very cleanliness makes the plants growing in it susceptible to quickly spreading plant diseases. In contrast compost contains a diversity of microbes that can suppress plant diseases. The ecological benefits of this are obvious: less fungicide has to be applied to plants, less peat is required thus preserving peat bogs, and green waste and paper waste that would otherwise be land-filled is recycled.

Professor Ralph Noble says: "This research shows that the use of such compost could provide clear commercial benefits to growers and ecological benefits for us all. There should be no additional costs involved but we must still test the reliability of using composts for a wide range of commercial crops. Those growers who do change from using 100% peat could literally reap significant rewards."



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Adapted from materials provided by University of Warwick, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
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