Value of dehydrated food waste fertiliser products in increasing soil health and crop productivity

James O'Connor, Son A. Hoang, Lauren Bradney, Jörg Rinklebe, M. B. Kirkham, Nanthi S. Bolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dehydration of food waste is a technique in which food waste is dewatered to form a low moisture product. This research characterised the physicochemical properties of different dehydrated food waste products and examined their value in improving physical, biological, and chemical properties of soils. Dehydrated food waste products were slightly acidic (4.7–5.1) with high levels of electrical conductivity (EC) (4.83–7.64 mS cm−1). The products were composed of complex carbohydrates, polysaccharides, alcohols, phenols, carboxylic acid, lipids, and fats and contained high levels of total and available nutrients. Dehydrated food wastes slightly impacted the soil pH; however, they significantly increased soil EC, which may cause soil salinity when applied repeatedly. The food waste products also increased macro-nutrients (N, P, and K) for plants across different soil types. Carbon and nutrients in dehydrated food waste increased microbial activity, measured by basal respiration. Delayed germination and reduced plant growth of corn (Zea mays) and wheat (Triticum aestivum) plants were observed at high application rates of dehydrated food waste. This may have resulted from a combination of phytotoxins, anoxic conditions, salinity as well as the water-repellent nature of dehydrated food waste. However, release of nutrients increased nutrient uptake and plant biomass in corn and wheat plants at low levels of food waste application. The dehydrated food waste products may require composting prior to soil application or incorporation into soil for a long duration prior to planting. These processes will overcome the limitations of phytotoxins, anoxic conditions, salinity, and water repellence. Further work is required to optimise the levels of dehydrated food waste application to improve soil health and crop productivity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111927
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


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