Jan Hruby, researcher at the project's lead partner, the Czech Research Institute for Fodder Plants, describes how "the research and development of new technologies and facilities for the production of forced compost is essential to landscape revitalisation. This can help rebuild the soil structure and crucial air/water ratio that have been damaged by the pollution."
The development of Eureka's Project E! 2190 Euroenviron Revital involves a two stage process. In the first stage, organic substances from municipal biological, agricultural and food industry wastes are used to produce forced composts with a high microbiological content. Mobile equipment has also been developed for mixing contaminated sludge from wastewater treatment plants and soil with composts, allowing waste as diverse as hay from grasslands to cattle waste to be utilised. A new machine automates the daily turnover of composts with the aim of creating optimum aerobic conditions to develop soil micro-organisms.
The microbiological part of the project was developed by Hungarian partner Bio-Gen. "We developed and tested methods to break down a number of raw materials including rabbit farm manure, grape residues, municipal sewage sludge and meat waste," said Gabor Szelenyi, Bio-Gen's Management Advisor.
In the second stage, this enriched compost works with specially selected crops to clean up and revitalise soil polluted by petroleum products. These specialist crops work with hydrocarbon-decomposing microbes within the compost to break down the petroleum and revitalise the soil. "The process relies mainly on the ability of micro-organisms to utilise the otherwise undesirable soil constituents as a source of energy and nutrients," explained Hruby.
"Successfully testing a wide variety of crops, including safflower, black medic and malva, to cultivate land degraded by petroleum, weeds, bad soil structure and soil compaction has had successful trials, including the reclamation of soil at an abandoned coal mine in northern Moravia," added Hruby.
Now the partners are looking to develop a market that will include farmers, petroleum processing or distribution companies, public works authorities and owners of infertile areas such as mining or industrial installations.
"This was only possible through Eureka as it allowed us to combine our talents with our Hungarian partner," says Hruby. "Eureka is a very good programme to develop cooperation between research institutes and SMEs, and also for international cooperation."