Organic Waste Improves Soil

By Bob Bowen

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

People in many areas are learning to use natural waste materials from farming, fishing and industry. Americans and Canadians living along the North Atlantic coast use wastes from the fishing industry. Thousands of tons of fish waste are produced each year by the fish industry in the area. Farmers have learned to mix it with wastes from other industries to make good plant food.

Several research scientists have worked to increase the agricultural use of organic waste. The nitrogen value of fish waste can be as high as almost eight percent. The fish waste also may contain eight percent phosphorus and two percent potassium.

However, experts advise against putting the fish waste directly in the garden. They say to mix it with sawdust that is produced when wood is cut. The sawdust helps to hide the fish smell.

In many American states, chickens produce a lot of waste each year. The chicken waste mixes with sawdust and peanut shells that cover the floor of the buildings where the chickens are kept. This produces more than one-million-five-hundred-thousand tons of organic material. Experts say this material should be used for agriculture.

Farms that produce milk are common in the middle western American states. A salty liquid called whey is left as waste when farmers make cheese from milk. The liquid is very rich in potassium. But only a small amount of it should be poured on the soil because it is salty.

Experiments have shown, however, that the salty whey helps soils that are naturally salty. Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service in Idaho poured the whey on soil high in sodium. The calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium in the whey replaced the harmful sodium in the soil. The experiment showed that crops improved in the treated soil.

The Rodale Institute Research Center says other industrial wastes are useful. It says waste from cotton factories can be used to fertilize the garden. Plant material left after sugar cane is processed can also be used as fertilizer.

Grape skins and seeds left from making wine also make good fertilizer. This mixture helps crops resist fungal diseases. The research center also says seaweed is good for crops. It contains a lot of potassium and nutrients such as iron, copper and zinc.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by Bob Bowen. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English