FEBRUARY 2013 RESEARCH SUMMARY

FEBRUARY 2013 RESEARCH SUMMARY

Urban Agriculture and Biosolids

Urban agriculture is an exploding trend, one that is good for everybody, including biosolids producers. Think of thousands of customers. Think of transport distances of less than 10 miles. Think of a word of mouth network about how wonderful your biosolids are. And, think of improved public health and increased food security. If you have a Class A product, or the potential to produce some, then urban farmers can use your biosolids. This is something that is likely new for everybody: generators and farmers alike. Many of the city dwellers who are trying to grow tomatoes have no idea how deep to plant the seed or how to make it grow. Many of the biosolids producers have no idea how to approach these growers about the potential benefits of their products. Using biosolids for urban gardens has likely been going on in informally the Northwest for quite some time. It has taken center stage with the Tacoma Pierce County program. You can find this program on Facebook : Tacoma/Pierce County Community Garden Program, or on the web: http://www.cityoftacoma.org/Page.aspx?nid=927. Loop biosolids products are also entering the urban agriculture movement; just visit their booth at the upcoming King County Flower and Garden show or http://www.loopforyoursoil.com/gardens-landscapes. This library is designed as a primer for urban growers. It starts with an article about the public health benefits and concerns associated with urban agriculture. One of the big concerns for urban agriculture is the potential contamination of urban soils. Lead is the ubiquitous contaminant in urban areas as a result of legacy pollution from leaded gasoline and paint. The next article is about inexpensive soil tests to see if lead contamination is a concern. For more information on this topic you can also look at http://www.iheartsoil.org/soils-in-the-city. The next article presents research on the ability of different biosolids composts to reduce lead and arsenic availability in contaminated soils. This work, funded partially by NBMA, suggests that composts will primarily work to dilute contaminants. If you want a product to also reduce the availability of the lead and arsenic, it might be a good approach to mix some water treatment residuals in with your urban garden soil product. From here we go from safety to feasibility. In addition to concerns about contaminants, many urban soils suffer from neglect. Soils in urban areas are often compacted, low in organic matter and nutrient deficient. This study, also partially funded by NBMA shows how biosolids based soil products can improve the tilth for urban soils. So there you have it. You can make biosolids products for the urban garden market that can reduce dangers associated with urban soil contaminants and make the soil better for growing food. Now you know at least one person will be asking about those pharmaceuticals before they will try your product. That is the subject of the last article in this month’s library. A new study out of Ag Canada tested for plant uptake of about 100 of these compounds in garden vegetables with soils fertilized with biosolids and didn’t see any. So use this library to help you. As Alleycat Acres so eloquently says, “Grow Forth!”