Wadsworth, R., Hallett, S., Sakrabani, R., Cranfield University, UK(free)
Rock phosphate is a strategic, non-renewable, non-homogeneously distributed natural resource that is essential for crop production. Biosolids contain usable quantities of phosphate, as well as nitrogen and other nutrients. In the UK recycling to land is considered to be the BPEO (best practical environmental option) and about 80% of biosolids are used in agriculture although this constitutes less than 5% of organic material applied to land. Previous field trials have demonstrated that application of an organo-mineral fertiliser (OMF) derived from biosolids showed that no significant differences in crop yield were observed between treatments between 2008-2011 trial years. Whilst this is encouraging, conducting field trials are expensive and time consuming. An alternative option is to have tool that can be used to determine the suitability of land to receive application of biosolids whilst considering existing soil P index.
This project explored the potential for application of biosolids in crop production through an agri-informatic, data-driven analysis of national geo-temporal environmental ‘Big Data’. National geospatial data sets on soils, land use, geology, climate, atmospheric deposition of pollutants, human population, protected areas etc have been assembled in a “Data Hub”. Synthesis of this data has led to the production of maps where the application of Phosphate on winter wheat and improved grass would be agronomically beneficial. Sustainability is assessed through consideration of the current (2015) and future (2050) climatic conditions. Formal and informal consultation with stakeholders allowed the construction of multiple constraint maps, representing the major concerns of different groups.