`Study Recommends Olive Oil Byproduct as Organic Fertilizer - Olive Oil Times

Study Recommends Olive Oil Byproduct as Organic Fertilizer

By Charlie Higgins
Jan. 26, 2020 09:13 UTC

Recent stud­ies con­ducted at the Universidad de Sevilla’s School of Agricultural Engineering con­cluded that alpe­rujo, the solid by-prod­uct of extract­ing olive oil by the two-phase cen­trifu­ga­tion sys­tem, can be reused as fer­til­izer in organic farm­ing.

Similar in appear­ance to slurry, alpe­rujo is rich in nitro­gen, potas­sium and organic mate­r­ial. The sub­stance also con­tains toxic amounts of polyphe­nols, which is why it must undergo a thor­ough com­post­ing process before it is safe to use in agri­cul­ture.

According to researchers, replac­ing chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers with the nat­ural byprod­uct could save the Spanish olive oil indus­try up to €60 mil­lion annu­ally. Last year, Spain pro­duced a total of 5.5 mil­lion tons of alpe­rujo, 82 per­cent of which came from the province of Andalusia.There it is the sec­ond most abun­dant nat­ural agri­cul­tural byprod­uct after manure, which is also widely used as fer­til­izer in the region.

Several organic olive oil farms in Jaén and Córdoba have already started using alpe­rujo for such pur­poses.

The ben­e­fits of alpe­rujo are more than just eco­nomic, accord­ing to University pro­fes­sor Eusebio Carmona Chiara. Replacing chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers, par­tic­u­larly nitro­gen-based ones, with the nat­ural byprod­uct would reduce the industry’s car­bon foot­print by releas­ing lower amounts of CO2 into the atmos­phere. The use of alpe­rujo would also result in so-called car­bon seques­tra­tion” in which car­bon is stored in the soil for sev­eral years before being released into the atmos­phere.

Despite these ben­e­fits, only 45,000 tons of alpe­rujo was com­posted in Andalusia in 2009, less than 10 per­cent of the total amount pro­duced annu­ally. Researchers blame the lack of tech­ni­cal knowl­edge required to com­post the sub­stance as well as the lack of invest­ment in infra­struc­ture required to carry out the process.

The Ministry of Agriculture of Andalusia has agreed to sup­ply up to 50 per­cent of the funds needed to develop this infra­struc­ture with a €100,000 ceil­ing for each pro­cess­ing plant.

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