Urban food waste for soil amendment? Analysis and characterisation of waste-based compost for soil fertility management in agroecological horticultural production systems in the city of Rosario, Argentina

R. Terrile, N. Martinez, N. Paz, F. Brunotto, M. Costa, N. Budai, C. Ruiz, M. Rizzi, M. Invernizzi, T. Scarpeci, R. D. Piacentini, K. Winter, Chiara Tornaghi

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Urban and peri-urban lands can be an important source of food production for localised and sustainable food systems, however, their soils can be of poor quality, degraded or damaged by anthropic activities, and little is known about their suitability or safety. This paper aims to contribute to this knowledge gap by assessing the soil remediation capacity and qualities of different types of compost made from urban and peri-urban organic wastes for agroecological food production. Prepared over the course of 2021, and used in 2022 for food growing, five different composts were observed and analysed, in two different farms in the city of Rosario, Argentina. Four raw materials generated largely by local industries were used to make the composts: chicken manure, rumen (cow’s stomachs), brewer’s bagasse (byproducts of the beer industry) and urban leaves collected from the municipality waste collection. These were mixed in different proportions (all reaching the 20–30 C/N ratio, typical of quality compost) to produce viable growing substrates where radishes and lettuces were grown. The aim of the study was to assess the possibility, quality and limitations to use locally available organic inputs for soil fertility management in agroecological farming, in the context of urbanisation and to assess pathways to develop closed-cycle agroecological agriculture at metropolitan level. Natural manure substrates (raw and composted) were analysed, as well as crops grown and fertilised with each of the substrates. The attributes and limiting factors of each substrate and their response to local soil conditions were compared and physicochemical, biochemical, and microbiological analyses were performed, including among others, the study of microbial biomass, biological activity, biophytotoxicity, pH, aerobic heterotrophs, nitrogen fixation, and the presence of antibiotics, agrochemicals and heavy metals. The results of the analyses show that all the composted materials improved the physical, chemical and biological properties. However, in some cases, pollutants were present even after composting. Analysis carried out on the vegetables generally indicate undetectable levels or levels below the admissible limits, demonstrating the filtering capacity of the different composts and the soil.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalFrontiers in Sustainable Food Systems
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


The author(s) declare financial support was received for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. The research for this article was funded by Future Earth and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, for the “Pegasus 3” call project “Soil Nexus” (2020–2022) (grant number G-85451-08). The consortium includes partners from Coventry University, United Kingdom (PI), Ghent University, Belgium; University of Cape Town, South Africa; National University of Rosario, CONICET and ROSCYTEC Foundation, Argentina; Twin Cities Agricultural Land Trust, United States and Compost Mentis, UK for the International Land Care Network; Shared Assets and Quantum Waste, United Kingdom; Spanish Network of Agroecological Cities, Spain


  • urban agroecology
  • food production
  • urban waste composting
  • physicochemical analysis
  • biochemical analysis
  • toxicity
  • urban soil amendment
  • soil fertility management


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