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Study Calculates How Much Poo Increases Crop Growth and Reduces Pollution

10:43 EDT 23 Aug 2017 | Meridian Institute

In a new study, Professor Deli Chen, the head of the University of Melbourne’s Soil Research Group, Australia, and colleagues, looked at the effectiveness of using animal waste to promote plant growth. The team analyzed 141 studies where animal waste was used on crops to replace part or all of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. They found there are benefits on the farm and beyond. Crop yields, the study showed, can increase by 12.7 percent when between half and three-quarters of synthetic fertilizer is replaced with animal waste. Moreover, the substitution reduced nitrogen-based pollution in the form of gases and runoff when compared to nitrogen fertilizer. Chen said substituting manure for fertilizer may immobilize nitrogen and carbon in the soil, making it available across the growing season for the crop. And, he added, the use of animal waste along with synthetic fertilizers is of huge financial benefit to food producers, along with the agronomic and environmental benefits. Chen noted that some crops, such as grains and vegetables, did not grow as well with a pure manure substitution. Still, 75 percent of fertilizer for such crops could be based on animal waste. "Here we are applying the motto 'use it or lose it'. If we see animal waste as an industry resource, we can prevent it being lost to the environment.," says Professor Chen.

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