Investigating Lobster Byproducts as Soil Amendments for Disease Suppression and Soil Health Improvement in Potato Production

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2022: $14,620.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2024
Grant Recipient: University of Maine
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Jianjun Hao
University of Maine


  • Agronomic: potatoes


  • Crop Production: cropping systems, greenhouses, municipal wastes, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Energy: byproduct utilization
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: biological control, cultural control, integrated pest management
  • Soil Management: composting, green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, soil microbiology, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: partnerships, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Maine is a unique state with a wealth of agricultural production amidst the lobster industry. While these two economies are distinct, the use of lobster processing byproducts as a soil amendment could benefit both of these industries. Potato tubers are constantly interfacing with both soilborne pathogens and beneficial microorganisms, and are subject to over 85 different diseases. Post-processed lobster shells can be finely ground to produce lobster shell meal (LSM). This product contains chitin, much like the key components of fungal cells and their overwintering structures. Adding chitin-rich material such as LSM can increase the populations of some chitin-degrading microorganisms that also suppress soilborne pathogens. We propose to use LSM as a soil amendment to enhance soil health by promoting beneficial microorganisms for disease suppression. In a greenhouse, the efficacy of LSM will be determined using potato ‘Shepody’ and inoculated with either no pathogens, Verticillium dahliae, or Streptomyces scabies, two soilborne pathogens. In the following year, a field trial will be performed to determine the impact of LSM on potato production with naturally occurring disease pressure. Potato yield, disease incidence and severity, shifts of microbial communities between treatments, and chitin-degrading microorganisms will be examined. This study aims to improve the understanding of how plant diseases can be suppressed by adding LSM in soil for modifying microbial communities. Additionally, the use of LSM presents an opportunity to connect the potato and lobster industries in Maine and transform shellfish industry byproducts into a highly valuable resource.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Determine the efficacy of LSM for promoting beneficial soil microbial communities and reducing soilborne diseases of potato
    2. Isolate and characterize chitinolytic microorganisms associated with LSM degradation
    3. Analyze soil microbial community dynamics under LSM treatment
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.