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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 34 No. 6, p. 2310-2317
    Received: Aug 25, 2004

    * Corresponding author(s): vjeliazkov@nsac.ca


Assessment of Wool Waste and Hair Waste as Soil Amendment and Nutrient Source

  1. Valtcho D. Zheljazkov *
  1. Department of Plant and Animal Sciences, Nova Scotia Agricultural College, 50 Pictou Road, Cox Institute R-151, P.O. Box 550, Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada B2N 5E3


A field and two container experiments were conducted to assess uncomposted wool and hair wastes as a nutrient source for crops and to evaluate their potential to improve soil biological and chemical properties. Overall, addition of wool or hair waste to soil increased yields of basil (Ocimum basilicum L. ‘Trakia’), thorn apple (Datura innoxia Mill. ‘Inka’), peppermint (Mentha × piperita L. ‘Black Mitchum’), and garden sage (Salvia officinalis L. ‘Desislava’), increased NH4–N and NO3–N in soil, increased total N (and protein) content in plant tissue, stimulated soil microbial biomass, and decreased mycorrhizae colonization of plant roots of thorn apple but not in basil. Wool and hair waste additions to soil altered slightly the content and composition of plant secondary metabolites (essential oils or alkaloids); however, overall the constituents remained within the “typical” range for the respective crops. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy dispersive X-ray (EDX) analysis demonstrated that wool and hair wastes decompose slowly under field or greenhouse conditions, and act as a slow release S, N, P, and K fertilizer. These results, along with the measured concentrations of NO3–N in soil at harvest, suggest that the addition of wool or hair waste of only 3.3 g kg−1 of soil may support two to five harvests or crops under greenhouse conditions and two to four field seasons in field production systems, and would improve soil biological and chemical characteristics. Further research is needed to optimize the rate of application of these waste materials to the nutrient requirements of specific crops to avoid nitrate leaching into the ground water. In addition, the effect of wool and hair waste on other environmental end points should also be further investigated before specific recommendations for growers are provided.

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Copyright © 2005. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyASA, CSSA, SSSA