Research from UCD has stated there is potential to obtain almost 16% of the nitrogen applied to cereal crops in Ireland from hydrolysed sheep’s wool.
Hydrolysis uses high temperatures, acids, bases and enzymes to break down the protein and to help extract nutrients from the wool.
A study of literature by Gary Gillespie, Kevin McDonnell and Oyinlola Dada has shown that this could be done in an economically feasible manner, while paying sheep farmers a “favourable” price for the wool.
The price of sheep’s wool fell by 42% from 2015 to 2018 and, so, new markets and uses are needed to add value to that wool.
Almost 1,800t of nitrogen, 1,000t of sulphur, as well as some copper and zinc, could be produced from hydrolysis of the available wool in Ireland and replace fossil-based fertilisers.
The next step in this research is to examine the variabilities in wool quality and yield.