A team of researchers from the Department of Agronomy at the University of Almeria and the IFAPA Centre in La Mojonera have developed a biofertilizer from the remains of tomato crops subjected to a biosolarization process, i.e., a heat treatment based on solar radiation. The study was carried out in a semi-commercial greenhouse that simulates the characteristics of Almeria's horticulture in the experimental estate of the Foundation of the University of Almeria and ANECOOP.
The biofertilizer, designed to protect the soil of tomato crops in greenhouses, improves the characteristics of the soil and leaves it free of pathogens in an environmentally friendly way. Furthermore, the research has shown that the production and quality conditions obtained in tomato crops treated with biosolarization are similar to those of crops treated with conventional chemical fertilizers, and at the same time, an effective and sustainable pest control.
The article entitled 'Greenhouse Soil Biosolarization with Tomato Plant Debris as a Unique Fertilizer for Tomato Crops', published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, presents an alternative method that proposes a solution for crop residues, since they are currently managed off-farm, and generate environmental impact. On the other hand, it reduces the contribution of chemical fertilizers, even in certain cases to be able to do without it, with the consequent saving without prejudice for the commercial production.
Fertilizing power of plant remains
The intensive horticulture of greenhouses in the area of the province of Almeria faces several environmental challenges. One of them is the management, storage and processing of vegetable waste that can cause the contamination of aquifers, the proliferation of pests, bad smells or the abuse of phytosanitary treatments. In previous studies, scientists had used biofumigation and solarization as soil disinfectant techniques. However, the fertilizing power of the incorporation of plant remains and the benefit they provide for subsequent crops had not been evaluated.
In future studies, scientists will evaluate how the development of this technique influences economic and environmental parameters. They will make an economic balance of fertilizer savings, an assessment of the reduced environmental impact of waste self-management, or the development of water footprint and carbon footprint models.