Researchers from the Neiker Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development in Spain have demonstrated that a combination of rapeseed cake and beer bagasse can be used to reduce populations of soil parasites and increase crop yields.
Beer bagasse is spent brewers’ grain – the stuff that is left over after the beer is made. Beer brewing generates substantial amounts of by-products, including large amounts of spent grain. It already has some practical uses, including as a feedstock for biofuel, as a food additive, and it even has some medical uses. But the new research has shown that the bagasse can be the basis for a biodisinfestation treatment to be used in agriculture. The aim is to disinfect soils, protect soil microorganisms, and increase crop yields.
The actual material studied was a mixture of beer bagasse, rapeseed cake, and a generous amount of fresh cow manure. The high nitrogen content of the mixture promotes the activity of beneficial microorganisms in the soil, which helps to break down organic matter and kill off nematodes and other parasites that damage crops.
Nematodes are common parasites that can penetrate plant roots to lay their eggs, which damages the root and prevents the plants from absorbing nutrients effectively. Application of the bagasse-based mixture over 12 months increased crop yields by 15% and boosted healthy soil microbes.
The study demonstrated that agricultural byproducts can be an effective treatment for root-knot nematodes and other soil parasites, increase crop yields, and help promote sustainable food systems to reduce waste from the agricultural industry. The researchers hope to identify other potential organic treatments for tackling soil parasite problems.
Photo, posted July 1, 2011, courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr.