Wool and Hair Waste as Nutrient Source for High-value Crops

in HortScience

One small-plotfield and five container experiments were conducted to evaluate sheep wool-wastes and human hair-wastes as soil amendments and nutrient sources for high-value crops. Overall, the wool-waste or hair-waste addition to soil: 1) increased yields from basil, garden sage, peppermint, valerian, thorn apple, marigold, foxglove, and swiss chard; 2) increased the amount of secondary metabolites (such as essential oils and alkaloids); 3) increased NH4-N and NO3-N in soil; 4) increased total N (and protein) content in plant tissue; 5) did not affect soil microbial biomass; and 6) decreased mycorrhizae colonization of plant roots. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy dispersive X-ray (EDX) analyses indicated that some of the wool and hair in soil from the container and field experiments (after two field seasons and several harvests) retained its original structure, retained a significant amount of S and some N, and was not fully decomposed. Our results indicate that single addition of wool or hair-waste of 0.33% by weight to soil would support two to five harvests or crops, without addition of other fertilizers, and may improve soil biological and chemical characteristics.

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