Researchers discover new use for human hair
Studies by U.S. researchers have shown that human hair, a readily available waste generated from barbershops and hair salons, is an additional nutrient source for crops if combined with additional compost, according to Xinhua.
Researchers from Mississippi State University recently published their study results in the current issue of journal HortTechnology.
Agricultural crop production usually relies on composted waste materials and byproducts, such as animal manure, municipal solid waste composts, and sewage sludge, as a necessary nutrient source.
Although human hair has become commercially available to crop producers in the past couple years, it has not been proven to be an exclusive source of nutrients in greenhouse container production.
The research team compared the productivity of four crops: lettuce, wormwood, yellow poppy, and feverfew, grown in commercial growth medium using untreated control, noncomposted hair cubes at differing weights, a controlled-release fertilizer and a water- soluble fertilizer.
Results showed that, with the addition of hair waste cubes, yields increased relative to the untreated control but were lower than yields in the inorganic treatments, suggesting that hair waste should not be used as a single source for fast-growing plants such as lettuce.
The authors suggest that once the degradation and mineralization of hair waste starts, it can provide sufficient nutrients for container-grown plants and ensure similar yields to those obtained with the commonly used fertilizers in horticulture. However, it takes time for the hair to start degrading and releasing nutrients.
Because of possible health concerns, further research is necessary to determine whether human hair waste is a viable option as fertilizer for edible crops, says the authors.