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Could recycled wastewater offer the UK an alternative to imported fertilizers?

Research at Cranfield University, in collaboration with Severn Trent and Microvi Biotech, is utilizing the ability of bacteria to recover nutrients from wastewater. The recovered product has the potential to provide a sustainable, green fertilizer alternative in the food sector and for the public’s use in gardens and allotments.

Rob Colston, a Ph.D. researcher, explains: “As we become more aware of the impact humans have on the planet, industries are now looking to minimize these negative effects. In the water and food industry, research into how we can close the ‘nutrient loop’ is developing rapidly as populations rise, with increasing food demand and waste production. Currently, we are extracting more nutrients from the earth to account for this and some nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium are finite.”

Nutrients can be recovered from wastewater using chemicals; however, this puts stress on other resources and demands more energy. 


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Bio-struvite is rich in phosphorus, ammonia, magnesium, and potassium and is produced by bacteria. It is a viable organic, slow-release fertilizer alternative to modern chemical fertilizers, slurry, and compost. The requirements of this process are very low when compared to the chemical recovery of nutrients, thanks in part to the robustness of these bacteria and, therefore, reducing the energy demands within the water industry. 

This recovered product has the potential to provide a sustainable, green fertilizer alternative in the food sector and for the public’s use in gardens and allotments, reducing the demand for imported and finite fertilizer products, closing our nutrient loop and improving our circular economy.

The research group is hoping to encourage the public to think about what is used to grow their food, where it has come from and the impact it can have. It is hoped that this will increase the number of potential end-users as they switch to recovered fertilizers. 

You can complete the survey here to help researchers understand how gardeners use fertilizers and their perceptions of recovered products.  It is to encourage policymakers and suppliers to accept the use of these products on our road to becoming more sustainable.  

For more information:
Cranfield University
www.cranfield.ac.uk 

 


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