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Urban Organic Waste for Urban Farming: Growing Lettuce Using Vermicompost and Thermophilic Compost

Schröder, Corinna; Häfner, Franziska; Larsen, Oliver Christopher; Krause, Ariane

FG Kreislaufwirtschaft und Recyclingtechnologie

A transformation towards sustainable food production requires improved circular nutrient management. Urban organic waste contains relevant nutrients and organic matter, yet only 4% of global urban nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) sources are presently recycled. One recycling approach is the composting of urban wastes for urban horticulture. We characterized compost from various urban waste fractions and assessed their fertilizer value in a pot trial with lettuce plants. Seven treatments were investigated: food waste vermicompost with coir and paperboard bedding material, thermophilic compost from green waste and human feces, two references with mineral fertilization and a sand control. The lettuce yield and total uptake of P, potassium (K), calcium (Ca), and magnesium (Mg) were highest in plants grown in coir-based vermicompost. The fecal compost led to the highest shoot P and K content, but the shoot uptake of Ca and Mg were lower than in the other treatments. All composts required additional N for lettuce growth. In conclusion, urban waste-derived vermicompost and fecal compost demonstrate a high delivery rate of plant-available Ca, Mg, P, and K. Research is needed on macronutrient availability and alternative N sources for the substitution of synthetic fertilization. These findings support the production of urban waste composts, furthering efforts in nutrient recycling.