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Concept: Organic fertilizer


The contamination of the environment with microplastic, defined as particles smaller than 5 mm, has emerged as a global challenge because it may pose risks to biota and public health. Current research focuses predominantly on aquatic systems, whereas comparatively little is known regarding the sources, pathways, and possible accumulation of plastic particles in terrestrial ecosystems. We investigated the potential of organic fertilizers from biowaste fermentation and composting as an entry path for microplastic particles into the environment. Particles were classified by size and identified by attenuated total reflection-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. All fertilizer samples from plants converting biowaste contained plastic particles, but amounts differed significantly with substrate pretreatment, plant, and waste (for example, household versus commerce) type. In contrast, digestates from agricultural energy crop digesters tested for comparison contained only isolated particles, if any. Among the most abundant synthetic polymers observed were those used for common consumer products. Our results indicate that depending on pretreatment, organic fertilizers from biowaste fermentation and composting, as applied in agriculture and gardening worldwide, are a neglected source of microplastic in the environment.

Concepts: Green manure, Urea, Vermicompost, Organic fertilizer, Agriculture, Compost, Fertilizer, Manure


Carbon to nitrogen (C/N) ratio influences substrate combinations and earthworm performance in vermicomposting systems. To elucidate these factor effects, a comparative evaluation of species, C/N ratio combined with feed rate, was conducted on three local earthworm species: Perionyx excavatus, Eudrilus eugeniae, and Dichogaster annae. Earthworms were stocked at similar densities and fed shredded paper (SP), cattle manure (CM), and lawn clippings (LC) combined to form C/N ratios of 28, 36, and 53. Earthworms were fed at rates of 1, 1.25, and 2 g feed (dry wt.)/g worm/day for a period of 8 weeks. Percent vermiconversion, earthworm adult and juvenile biomass, and vermicast quality were measured. Vermicast production was significantly affected by the combination of C/N ratio and feed rate and varied among species. All treatment combinations resulted in > 70% conversion, except E. eugenaie fed at the medium rate. Vermiconversion increased for P. excavatus and D. annae with increasing C/N ratio but decreased with increasing the feed rate. Vermicast EC, pH, and C/N ratio was strongly affected by species, relative to other experimental factors. D. annae showed the greatest change in biomass, which peaked at the highest feed rate and lowest C/N ratio. Average adult biomass decreased for P. excavatus with increasing feed rate, while differences were nonsignificant for E. eugenaie and D. annae. Significant increases in average juvenile biomass were only evident for D. annae in response to increasing feed rates. Feed rate had a greater influence on earthworm population dynamics and vermicast quality compared to initial feedstock C/N ratio.

Concepts: Ratio, Organic fertilizer, Charles Darwin, Eudrilidae, Composting, Compost, Vermicompost, Earthworm


Microbial mechanisms associated with soil organic carbon (SOC) decomposition are poorly understood. We aim to determine the effects of inorganic and organic fertilizers on soil labile carbon © pools, microbial community structure and C mineralization rate under an intensive wheat-maize double cropping system in Northern China. Soil samples in 0-10 cm layer were collected from a nine-year field trial involved four treatments: no fertilizer, CK; nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilizers, NP; maize straw combined with NP fertilizers, NPS; and manure plus straw and NP fertilizers, NPSM. Soil samples were analyzed to determine labile C pools (including dissolved organic C, DOC; light free organic C, LFOC; and microbial biomass C, MBC), microbial community composition (using phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) profiles) and SOC mineralization rate (from a 124-day incubation experiment). This study demonstrated that the application of chemical fertilizers (NP) alone did not alter labile C fractions, soil microbial communities and SOC mineralization rate from those observed in the CK treatment. Whereas the use of straw in conjunction with chemical fertilizers (NPS) became an additional labile substrate supply that decreased C limitation, stimulated growth of all PLFA-related microbial communities, and resulted in 53% higher cumulative mineralization of C compared to that of CK. The SOC and its labile fractions explained 78.7% of the variance of microbial community structure. Further addition of manure on the top of straw in the NPSM treatment did not significantly increase microbial community abundances, but it did alter microbial community structure by increasing G+/G- ratio compared to that of NPS. The cumulative mineralization of C was 85% higher under NPSM fertilization compared to that of CK. Particularly, the NPSM treatment increased the mineralization rate of the resistant pool. This has to be carefully taken into account when setting realistic and effective goals for long-term soil C stabilization.

Concepts: Ammonia, Urea, Phosphorus, Organic fertilizer, Guano, Nitrogen, Manure, Fertilizer


Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) has recently been studied extensively for its health-supplementing and therapeutic activities against a variety of ailments. Several independent studies have experimentally demonstrated pharmaceutical potential of its active Withanolides, Withaferin A (Wi-A), Withanone (Wi-N) and Withanolide A (Wil-A). However, to promote its use in herbal industry, an environmentally sustainable cultivation and high yield are warranted. In modern agriculture strategies, there has been indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers to boost the crop-yield, however the practice largely ignored its adverse effect on the quality of soil and the environment. In view of these, we attempted to recruit Vermicompost (Vcom, 20-100%) as an organic fertilizer of choice during the sowing and growing phases of Ashwagandha plants. We report that (i) pre-soaking of seeds for 12 h in Vermicompost leachate (Vcom-L) and Vermicompost tea (Vcom-T) led to higher germination, (ii) binary combination of pre-soaking of seeds and cultivation in Vcom (up to 80%) resulted in further improvement both in germination and seedling growth, (iii) cultivated plants in the presence of Vcom+Vcom-L showed higher leaf and root mass, earlier onset of flowering and fruiting and (iv) leaves from the Vcom+Vcom-L cultivated plants showed higher level of active Withanolides, Withanone (Wi-N), Withanolide A (Wil-A) and Withaferin A (Wi-A) and showed anticancer activities in cell culture assays. Taken together, we report a simple and inexpensive method for improving the yield and pharmaceutical components of Ashwagandha leaves.

Concepts: Withania, Organic fertilizer, Fruit, Seed, Withania somnifera, Fertilizer, Plant morphology, Agriculture


The research was conducted to investigate the accumulation, distribution and availability of Cd in paddy soil and their relation to Cd in rice plants under 30-year fertilization regimes. Six treatments were involved in the study: control without fertilization (CK), chemical fertilizer (NPK), high nitrogen chemical fertilizer (HN), rice straw incorporation (ST), low and high dosage of manure fertilizer (LM and HM). Total and DTPA extractable concentration of Cd (T-Cd and DTPA-Cd) in bulk soils (20 cm topsoil), profiles (0-60 cm) and aggregates (>2, 1-2, 0.5-1, 0.25-0.5, 0.053-0.25 and < 0.053 mm) were investigated. The Cd concentration in relevant rice plant (roots, stems, leaves, husks and grains) were also analyzed. Manure fertilizers caused T-Cd accumulation in bulk soil with a significant increase of 36.2% in LM and 81.2% in HM. Similar impacts of manure fertilizers were observed in DTPA-Cd in the bulk soil. Further, the HM generated a further accumulation in deeper soil layers, presenting a remarkable increase of T-Cd (28.3%-225%) in 10-40 cm and DTPA-Cd (116%-158%) in 10-30 cm profiles. Moreover, the continuous application of manure fertilizers enhanced the availability of Cd in all aggregate size classes with an increase of 17.3%-87.8% in DTPA-Cd. Organic fertilizers (LM, HM and ST) heightened the content of Cd (38.0%-152%) in all parts of rice plant. The accumulation of Cd in rice plants was directly affected by fertilization regimes and Cd availability in the 10-20 cm soil layers and 0.25-0.5 mm aggregates. In conclusion, long-term application of manures resulted in increasing availability of Cd in aggregates and in topsoil and subsoil layers, which accordingly enhanced the accumulation of Cd in rice plants.

Concepts: Compost, Urea, Soil, Organic fertilizer, Guano, Nitrogen, Fertilizer, Manure


Vermicomposting is a bio-oxidative process that involves the action of mainly epigeic earthworm species and different micro-organisms to accelerate the biodegradation and stabilization of organic materials. There has been a growing realization that the process of vermicomposting can be used to greatly improve the fertilizer value of different organic materials, thus, creating an opportunity for their enhanced use as organic fertilizers in agriculture. The link between earthworms and micro-organisms creates a window of opportunity to optimize the vermi-degradation process for effective waste biodegradation, stabilization, and nutrient mineralization. In this review, we look at up-to-date research work that has been done on vermicomposting with the intention of highlighting research gaps on how further research can optimize vermi-degradation. Though several researchers have studied the vermicomposting process, critical parameters that drive this earthworm-microbe-driven process which are C/N and C/P ratios; substrate biodegradation fraction, earthworm species, and stocking density have yet to be adequately optimized. This review highlights that optimizing the vermicomposting process of composts amended with nutrient-rich inorganic materials such as fly ash and rock phosphate and inoculated with microbial inoculants can enable the development of commercially acceptable organic fertilizers, thus, improving their utilization in agriculture.

Concepts: Organic compound, Fertilizer, Manure, Organic fertilizer, Phosphorus, Vermicompost, Earthworm, Compost


Organic soil fertilizers, such as livestock manure and biogas digestate, frequently contain bacteria carrying resistance genes (RGs) to antimicrobial substances and mobile genetic elements (MGEs). The effects of different fertilizers (inorganic, manure, digestate) on RG and MGE abundance and microbial community composition were investigated in a field plot experiment. The relative abundances of RGs [sul1, sul2, tet(A), tet(M), tet(Q), tet(W), qacEΔ1/qacE] and MGEs [intI1, intI2, IncP-1, IncP-1ε and LowGC plasmids] in total community (TC)-DNA from organic fertilizers, bulk soil and maize rhizosphere were quantified by qPCR before/after fertilization and prior to maize harvest. Microbial communities were analyzed via Illumina sequencing of 16S rRNA gene fragments amplified from TC-DNA. Compared to inorganic fertilization, manure treatments increased relative abundances of all RGs analyzed, integrons and few genera affiliated to Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes in bulk soil, while digestate increased sul2, tet(W) and intI2. At harvest, treatment effects vanished in bulk soil. However, organic fertilizer effects were still detectable in the rhizosphere for RGs [manure: intI1, sul1; digestate: tet(W)] and Clostridium related sequences (digestates) with increased relative abundance. Our data indicated transient organic fertilizer effects on RGs, MGEs and microbial community composition in bulk soil with long-term history of digestate or manure application.

Concepts: Nitrogen, Microbiology, Guano, 16S ribosomal RNA, Organic fertilizer, Bacteria, Fertilizer, Manure


This study evaluated and compared the removal of antibiotics by industrial-scale composting and anaerobic digestion at different seasons. Twenty compounds belonged to three classes of widely used veterinary antibiotics (i.e., tetracyclines, sulfonamides, and quinolones) were investigated. Results show that of the three groups of antibiotics, tetracyclines were dominant in swine feces and poorly removed by anaerobic digestion with significant accumulation in biosolids, particularly in winter. Compared to that in winter, a much more effective removal (> 97%) by anaerobic digestion was observed for sulfonamides in summer. By contrast, quinolones were the least abundant antibiotics in swine feces and exhibited a higher removal by anaerobic digestion in winter than in summer. The overall removal of antibiotics by aerobic composting could be more than 90% in either winter or summer. Nevertheless, compost products from livestock farms in Beijing contained much higher antibiotics than commercial organic fertilizers. Thus, industrial composting standards should be strictly applied to livestock farms to further remove antibiotics and produce high quality organic fertilizer.

Concepts: Composting, Mechanical biological treatment, Organic fertilizer, Compost, Anaerobic digestion, Vermicompost, Fertilizer, Manure


Paddy soil accounts for 10% of global atmospheric methane (CH4) emissions. Many types of fertilizers may enhance CH4 emissions, especially organic fertilizer. The aim of this study was to explore the effects of different fertilizers on CH4 and methanogen patterns in paddy soil. This experiment involved four treatments: chemical fertilizer (CT), organic fertilizer (OT), mixed with chemical and organic fertilizer (MT), and no fertilizer (ctrl). The three fertilization treatments were applied with total nitrogen at the same rate of 300 kg N ha-1. Paddy CH4, soil physicochemical variables and methanogen communities were quantitatively analyzed. Rhizosphere soil mcrA and pmoA gene copy numbers were determined by qPCR. Methanogenic 16S rRNA genes were identified by MiSeq sequencing. The results indicated CH4 emissions were significantly higher in OT (145.31 kg ha-1) than MT (84.62 kg ha-1), CT (77.88 kg ha-1) or ctrl (32.19 kg ha-1). Soil organic acids were also increased by organic fertilization. CH4 effluxes were significantly and negatively related to mcrA and pmoA gene copy numbers, and positively related to mcrA/pmoA. Above all, hydrogenotrophic Methanocella and acetoclastic Methanosaeta were the predominant methanogenic communities; these communities were strictly associated with soil potassium, oxalate, acetate, and succinate. Application of organic fertilizer promoted the dominant acetoclastic methanogens, but suppressed the dominant hydrogenotrophic methanogens. The transformation in methanogenic community structure and enhanced availability of C substrates may explain the increased CH4 production in OT compared to other treatments. Compared to OT, MT may partially mitigate CH4 emissions while guaranteeing a high rice yield. On this basis, we recommend the local fertilization pattern should change from 300 N kg ha-1 of organic manure to the same level of mixed fertilization. Moreover, we suggest multiple combinations of mixed fertilization merit more investigation in the future.

Concepts: Potassium, Guano, Natural gas, Organic fertilizer, Nitrogen, Fertilizer, Methane, Manure


Olive mill wastewater (OMW) is generated during the production of olive oil. Its disposal is still a major environmental problem in Mediterranean countries, despite the fact that a large number of technologies have been proposed up to date. The present work examines for the first time a novel, simple and low-cost technology for OMW treatment combining solar drying and composting. In the first step, OMW was dried in a chamber inside a solar greenhouse using swine manure as a bulking agent. The mean evaporation rate was found to be 5.2 kg H2O/m2/d for a drying period of 6 months (February-August). High phenol (75%) and low nitrogen (15%) and carbon (15%) losses were recorded at the end of the solar drying process. The final product after solar drying was rich in nutrients (N: 27.8 g/kg, P: 7.3 g/kg, K: 81.6 g/kg) but still contained significant quantities of phenols (18.4 g/kg). In order to detoxify the final product, a composting process was applied as a second step with or without the use of grape marc as bulking agent. Results showed that the use of grape marc as a bulking agent at a volume ratio of 1:1 achieved a higher compost temperature profile (60 °C) than 2:1 (solar drying product: grape marc) or no use (solar drying product). The end product after the combination of solar drying and composting had the characteristics of an organic fertilizer (57% organic carbon) rich in nutrients (3.5% N, 1% P, 6.5% K) with quite low phenol content (2.9 g/kg). Finally, the use of this product for the cultivation of pepper plants approved its fertility which was found similar with commercial NPK fertilizers.

Concepts: Organic fertilizer, Nitrogen, Drying, Manure, Compost, Composting, Evaporation, Fertilizer