Nutrients and non-essential elements in edible crops following long-term mineral and compost fertilization of a Mediterranean agricultural soil

  • Daniela BaldantoniEmail author
  • Giovanni Saviello
  • Anna Alfani
Advances & Prospects in the field of Waste Management


The effects of long-term soil fertilizations on nutrient and non-essential element concentrations in edible parts of three crops important in human diet were investigated repeating four treatments (biowaste compost, biowaste compost plus mineral nitrogen, mineral NPK, unfertilized control) for seven consecutive years (2007–2014). Fruits of Solanum lycopersicum cv San Marzano collected in 2011 and 2012, bulbs of Allium cepa cv Bianca di Pompei collected in 2012 and 2013, and bulbs of Foeniculum vulgare cv Orbit collected in 2014 were analyzed. Wide variations in element concentrations were observed along time and among species, with Ca, K, Mg, and Na higher in fennel bulbs and Cd, Cr, Mn, Ni, Pb, and Zn higher in tomato fruits, where Cd reached concentrations up to ninefold higher than the permitted values (EU Regulation n. 488/2014). Despite the enrichments in soil total Cu and available Cd, Fe, K, Mn, and Zn concentrations due to long-term fertilization with biowaste compost (alone or with mineral fertilizers), plants showed lower micronutrient and non-essential element concentrations in respect to those on unfertilized soils. Considering the potential toxicity for human beings of these mobile and persistent elements, the obtained findings reassure on the safe use of biowaste compost in agriculture. Overall, this study suggests the use of compost as the most advisable fertilization practice and highlights the need of multiple crops analysis in evaluating the effects of long-term soil fertilization on their chemical composition.


Organic and inorganic fertilizers Crop quality Chemical element concentrations Solanum lycopersicum cv San Marzano Allium cepa cv Bianca di Pompei Foeniculum vulgare cv Orbit 



The authors are obliged to Dr. Luigi Morra and to the entire staff of CREA (Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia agraria—Unità di ricerca per le Colture Alternative al Tabacco) of Scafati (Italy) for the management of long-term field trials.

Funding information

The research was funded by University of Salerno (Italy).

Compliance with ethical standards

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. All the authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Chimica e Biologia “Adolfo Zambelli”Università degli Studi di SalernoFiscianoItaly

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