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Beer byproducts and manure used to increase crop yields

In a new study published by Frontiers, experts have demonstrated that a mixture of beer byproducts and manure can be used as an eco-friendly alternative to pesticides. These organic materials were found to preserve healthy soil microorganisms and increase crop yields.

Researchers from the Neiker Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development have been testing byproducts from beer production and the agricultural industry to replace soil fumigants. Many fumigants are known to contain chemicals that are harmful to human health and the environment. 

The current study was focused on the byproducts rapeseed cake and beer bagasse, along with fresh cow manure.

“Rapeseed cake and beer bagasse are two potential organic treatments which have shown really positive results in previous studies,” said lead author Maite Gandariasbeitia.

“Their high nitrogen content promotes the activity of beneficial microorganisms in the soil, which helps to break down organic matter like manure and kill off nematodes and other parasites which damage crops.”

Plant parasitic nematodes impact crop yields by causing wilting, stunting, and nutrient deficiency.

“Root-knot nematodes are a type of common soil parasite which penetrate a plant’s root tissue to lay their eggs and this activity causes galls, or knot-like swellings, to form on the root,” explained Gandariasbeitia.

“This damage negatively impacts root development and means the crop can’t take up nutrients efficiently, slowing plant growth and ultimately, leading to reduced yields for farmers.”

To reduce nematode populations in the soil, the experts tested a mixture of beer bagasse and rapeseed cake with fresh cow manure. The researchers found a significant reduction in galling on plant roots after the first treatment.

After one year, crop yields increased on the treated plots by around 15 percent compared to the control plots. In addition, the beer byproduct and manure treatment boosted populations of beneficial microorganisms in the soil, which was exhibited by a significantly higher soil respiration rate.

The agricultural byproducts could be used to control other soil parasites as well, while promoting sustainable food systems to reduce waste from the agricultural industry. 

According to Gandariasbeitia, further research is needed to explore other potential organic treatments that could be used in a similar way.

“There are still many questions to answer so that we can gain a better understanding of what happens in the soil during and after these biodisinfestation treatments.”

“This can help us to really elucidate what characteristics we should be looking for in other potential organic treatments to be effective in tackling soil parasite populations.”

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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