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Remineralizing soils? The agricultural usage of silicate rock powders in the context of One Health

  • The concept of soil health describes the capacity of soil to fulfill essential functions and ecosystem services. Healthy soils are inextricably linked to sustainable agriculture and are crucial for the interconnected health of plants, animals, humans, and their environment ("One Health"). However, soil health is threatened through unprecedented rates of soil degradation. A major form of soil degradation is nutrient depletion, which has been seriously underestimated for potassium (K) and several micronutrients. One way to replenish K and micronutrients are multi-nutrient silicate rock powders (SRPs). Their agronomic suitability has long been questioned due to slow weathering rates, although recent studies found significant soil health improvements and challenge past objections which insufficiently addressed the factorial complexity of the weathering process. Furthermore, environmental co-benefits might arise through their mixture with livestock slurry, which could reduce the slurry’s ammonia (NH3) emissions and improve its biophysicochemical properties. However, neither SRPs effects on soil health, nor the biophysicochemical effects of mixing SRPs with livestock slurry have hitherto been comprehensively analyzed. The overall aim of this dissertation is thus to review the agricultural usage of SRPs in the context of One Health. The first part of this thesis starts with an elaboration of the health concept in general and then explores the interlinkages between soil health and One Health. Subsequently, the potentials and oftentimes bypassed problems of operationalizing soil health will be outlined, and feasible ways for its future usage are proposed. In the second part of the thesis, it is reviewed how and under which circumstances SRPs can ameliorate soil health. This is done by presenting a new framework with the most relevant factors for the usage of SRPs through which several contradictory outcomes of prior studies can be explained. A subsequent analysis of 48 crop trials reveals the potential of SRPs as K and multi-nutrient soil amendment for tropical soils, whereas the benefits for temperate soils are inconclusive. The review revealed various co-benefits that could substantially increase SRPs overall agronomic efficiency. The last part of the thesis reports about the effects of mixing two rock powders with cattle slurry. SRPs significantly increased the slurry´s CH4 emission rates, whereas the effects on NH3, CO2, and N2O emission rates were mostly insignificant. The rock powders increased the nutrient content of the slurry and altered its microbiology. In conclusion, the concept of soil health must be operationalized in more specific, practical, and context-dependent ways. Particularly in humid tropical environments, SRPs could advance low-cost soil health ameliorations, and its usage could have additional co-benefits regarding One Health. Mixing SRPs with organic materials like livestock slurry could overcome the major obstacle of their low solubility, although the effects on NH3 and greenhouse gas emissions must be further evaluated.

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Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Author:Philipp Swoboda
Referee:Martin Hamer, Thomas F. Döring
Date of exam:2022/03/07
Contributing Corporation:Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Date of first publication:2022/06/29
Keyword:Ammoniak; Bodengesundheit; Düngemittel; Enhanced weathering; Gesteinsmehl; Gülle; Rock dust; Soil health; ammonia; beschleunigte Verwitterung; fertilizer; rock powder; slurry
Departments, institutes and facilities:Internationales Zentrum für Nachhaltige Entwicklung (IZNE)
Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC):6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 63 Landwirtschaft / 630 Landwirtschaft und verwandte Bereiche
Entry in this database:2022/07/12