Innovation: Best Practices For Agricultural Wastes Treatment And Reuse In The Mediterranean Countries

Last update: 29.06.2013
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Keywords: 
agricultural method‚ waste recycling‚ water reuse‚ agricultural waste‚
The production of safe, high quality agricultural products and environmental protection are of public interest. In developed countries, it is important to increase product quality rather than quantity, due to the need to save water and reduce food surplus, and respond to the increasing demand for environmental conservation and evolving consumer demand.Intensive farming systems use excess amounts of water and fertilisers. Under intensive crop production systems, nutrients are usually delivered via the irrigation system immediately after transplanting in order to produce strong healthy plants. This results in excessive use of fertilisers and water (sometimes double what is actually needed by the crop). Apart from the high production cost and the low product competitiveness, such practices cause serious environmental problems, such as wasteful consumption of water, an increased risk of desertification due to increased soil salinity, soil pollution/degradation, water pollution through leaching of the excess nutrients and reduced soil biodiversity.Most of these impacts are already evident in southern Europe, where a significant percentage of cultivated land suffers from the effects of desertification, mainly due to intensive agriculture, climatic conditions, wild fires and shortages of water. The use of lower impact systems, and the adaptation of specific and/or innovative technologies for the prevention of resources utilisation, while simultaneously maintaining constant production levels, could lead to economic development at local/regional level as well as to environment protection and improvement.
The WASTEREUSE project aims to address two significant environmental problems: the uncontrolled disposal of agricultural waste (olive oil mill wastes, wastes from wine production, etc.) and the excess use of nutrients and natural resources (water, phosphoric minerals used for fertilisers).The project will attempt to increase the recycling of nutrients and water with the sustainable use of treated (or potentially untreated) agricultural waste (AW), and to combine developed technologies in integrated methodologies for the sustainable recycling of waste nutrients and water in agriculture.Specifically, the projects objectives include:

1. Evaluation of innovative as well as traditional technologies for AW treatment in order to assess their suitability for use in crop cultivation (irrigation and fertilisation);
2. Development of alternative cultivation practices for the most widely cultivated and water demanding crops (e.g. vegetables and cereals) in the Mediterranean region by recycling nutrients and water from AW. This will focus on the identification and development of best management practices for waste application to main market crops with a view to maximising yields and minimising off-site environmental impacts;
3. Protection of soil quality from the disposal of processed and unprocessed AW by developing and using innovative cultivation practices which will be suitable for Mediterranean soil types;
4. Reduction of the carbon footprint of the agricultural sector by recycling AW and minimising the use of fertilisers;
5. Conservation of natural resources (e.g. soil, water and phosphatic deposits) by averting excessive use and uncontrolled wastes disposal;
6. Increased competitiveness of Mediterranean agricultural products and improved profit margins through the reduction of external inputs (irrigation water and fertilisers).

Expected results: The project will compile an inventory of all available technologies for AW treatment, grouped by level of development (lab, pilot, full scale), as well as an inventory of agricultural practices using treated AW, derived from the already developed technologies, for the most common cultivated and water demanding crops in Mediterranean. It will analyse the wastes treated by different technologies to assess their suitability for agricultural use and especially for the cultivation of vegetable, cereals and ornamental crops under open field and greenhouse conditions.New alternative cultivation methods that use treated or untreated AW will be developed and their effects on soil quality will be examined. A report on soil quality protection by the sustainable use of treated agricultural wastes in crop cultivation will be produced. A code of waste management practices for agricultural application will be developed. The project will also propose a set of measures and actions that should be taken by national policy makers in the Mediterranean to conform to European legislation requirements, as well as legislative recommendations for AW reuse policy. In addition, a legislative framework for the use of treated wastes in water and nutrient management, across the various soil climatic conditions prevailing in the Mediterranean, will be developed and proposed. LCA studies will be conducted for the main crops using the most feasible AW treatment options. The project will help to improve knowledge of waste management impacts on soil nutrient availability as
well as the excess deposition of inorganic and organic compounds.

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This innovation is the result of the project

Title: Best Practices For Agricultural Wastes Treatment And Reuse In The Mediterranean Countries

Acronym: 
WASTEREUSE

Runtime: 
01.09.2011 to 31.08.2015

Status: 
on-going project

Organisations and people involved in this eco-innovation.

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TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF CRETE, DEPARTMENT OF MINERAL RESOURCES ENGINEERING

(Greece)

Role in project: Project Coordination

Contact person: KOMNITSAS Konstantinos

Phone: +30 2 8210 37686

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