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

in HortScience

Container and field experiments were conducted to evaluate sheep wool wastes and human hair wastes as soil amendments and nutrient sources for high-value crops. Overall, wool-waste or hair-waste additions to soil increased yields from basil, garden sage, peppermint, valerian, thorn apple, marigold, foxglove, and swiss chard; increased the amount of secondary metabolites (such as essential oils and alkaloids); increased NH4-N and NO3-N in the soil; and increased total N (and protein) content in plant tissue. The wool-waste or hair-waste additions did not affect soil microbial biomass, but 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, a significant amount of S, some N, and was not fully decomposed. Results from this study suggest that wool and hair wastes can be used as soil amendment and nutrient source for high-value container or field crops.

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