Experimenting with Wool as a Nitrogen Source for Farming
This summer, Shelburne Farms hosted a meeting at the Coach Barn gathering local farmers to meet and learn from Utah rancher, Albert Wilde of Wilde Valley Farms, who raises beef cows and sheep. Albert demonstrated how he is able to manufacture wool pellets from his sheep’s fleece, which is proving to be a new way of introducing nitrogen into soil, a key nutrient for growing crops.
UVM Extension picked multiple farm sites to test this new technique, one of which being the Shelburne Farms Market Garden. We’re testing the pellets’ effectiveness using two 100-foot rows of broccoli: one treated with wool pellets as a nitrogen fertilizer, and the other treated with our typical nitrogen fertilizer (mostly made of chicken manure). We recorded the date the broccoli was seeded in the greenhouse, date planted in the field, date of fertilizer application, and yield. The yield data will show us if there was any dramatic difference in the effectiveness of the wool pellets versus the other fertilizer.
Anecdotally, there hasn’t seemed to be much difference in yield between the fertilizers—both are working well. However, the wool pellets could be a value-added product for farmers raising sheep and create new revenue streams from wool which has little value on the global market.
UVM Extension dove into the topic on a recent episode of Across the Fence: