Recovered phosphorus for a more resilient urban agriculture: Assessment of the fertilizer potential of struvite in hydroponics

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Urban agriculture (UA) is a means for cities to become more resilient in terms of food sovereignty while shortening the distance between production and consumption. However, intensive soilless UA still depends on the use of fertilizers, which relies on depleting non-renewable resources such as phosphorous (P) and causes both local and global impact for its production and application. With the aim to reduce such impacts and encourage a more efficient use of nutrients, this study assesses the feasibility of using struvite precipitated from an urban wastewater treatment plant as the unique source of P fertilizer. To do so, we apply various quantities of struvite (ranging from 1 to 20 g/plant) to the substrate of a hydroponic Phaseolus vulgaris crop and determine the yield, water flows and P balances. The results show that treatments with more than 5 g of struvite per plant produced a higher yield (maximum of 181.41 g/plant) than the control (134.6 g/plant) with mineral fertilizer (KPO4H2). On the other hand, P concentration in all plant organs was always lower when using struvite than when using chemical fertilizer. Finally, the fact that different amounts of struvite remained undissolved in all treatments denotes the importance to balance between a correct P supply to the plant and a decrease of P lost through the leachates, based on the amount of struvite and the irrigated water. The findings of this study show that it is feasible for UA to efficiently use locally recovered nutrients such as P to produce local food.
Original languageEnglish
Article number149424
JournalScience of the total environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • Circular economy
  • Fertilizer substitution
  • Industrial ecology
  • Phosphorus
  • Struvite
  • Urban agriculture


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