Farming soil created from desert with ‘forever fertile’ animal waste product

11.2bn tonnes of organic solids are disposed of each year, accounting for 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. But can this be used to transform arid wilderness into agricultural opportunities?

aerial photography of desert under blue and white skies during daytime

Developed by a team at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia, new Terraxy-branded technology ‘unlocks the potential in desert soil for sustainable food production and ecosystem services’. 

By improving the quality of the land itself, it will be possible to cultivate crops for human and animal food chains, helping ease the burden on fertile soils when they are rapidly being depleted. As a paper published by Berkeley University in 2015 explained, ‘humans have been depleting soil nutrients at rates that are orders of magnitude greater than our current ability to replenish it’, and this now a major cause for concern. 

CarboSoil, the product manufactured by Terraxy, could prove a significant tool in tackling this crisis. Made entirely from organic waste – chicken manure, crop residue, food scraps, sewage sludge – the innovation is primarily aimed at alkaline soils, such as those found in sandy deserts. For each tonne produced, three tonnes of chicken manure is saved from landfill.

Just one application of the product is needed, too, with the scientists involved labelling soil ‘forever fertile’ at this point, and good to grow on for hundreds of years.  This claim is backed up by a series of multi-yield field trials on several varieties of food crop,  alongside a number of plant species native to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

More on waste and recycling: 

Anti-toxin mural removes pollution in London on Clean Air Day

Torfaen Borough Council looks to boost recycling rates with ‘transfer station’

Amazon must take responsibility for 2m daily UK parcel deliveries

Image: Oliver Wittop


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