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Phosphorus Fate and Transport in Biosolids Amended Soils: I. Phosphorus Forms in Soils Used for Corn Production

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Abstract:

Municipal biosolids (sewage sludge) application to agricultural lands is a well-established practice in the U.S., one that is based on decades of research and practical experience ( Basta, 2000; Evanylo, 1999; King, 1986; Pennsylvania State University, 1985; USEPA, 1995). With respect to nutrient management, the Part 503 rule of the U.S. Clean Water Act, promulgated by USEPA in 1993, requires that biosolids be applied at an agronomic rate, defined as “the whole sludge application rate designed (1) to provide the amount of nitrogen needed by the food crop, feed crop, fiber crop, cover crop, or vegetation grown on the land; and (2) to minimize the amount of nitrogen in the sewage sludge that passes below the root zone of the crop or vegetation grown on the land to the ground water” (USEPA, 1993). In recent years, however, the use of N-based management as the criteria for land application of biosolids has come into question, primarily because of growing international concerns about nonpoint phosphorus (P) pollution of surface andshallow ground waters (Parry, 1998; Sharpley et al, 2000; Sims et al., 1998; Withers et al., 2000).

In response to concerns about the effects of agricultural P on water quality, and the increasing body of research on the buildup of P in soils amended with organic by-products, a number of U.S. states have established guidelines or passed laws that limit P applications to cropland (Shober and Sims, 2002; Sims and Coale, 2002). For example, state nutrient management laws that specifically address agricultural P management have recently been passed in Delaware (1999), Maryland (1998), and Virginia (1999) (Simpson, 1998; Sims, 2000). Maryland's Water Quality Improvement Act is of particular interest to municipalities in the Mid-Atlantic states because it was the first state law in this region to regulate the land applications of biosolids P in the same manner as fertilizer and manure P. Should similar mandatory P-based management programs for biosolids be adopted in other states, land application programs for biosolids will be severely constrained because of the large percentage of cropland in this region that is nowconsidered “optimum” or “excessive” in soil test P from an agronomic perspective (Sims and Coale, 2002).

As the need for more widespread, mandatory P-based management of biosolids is considered, it is important to remember that research has shown that many factors other than soil test P can affect the potential for P losses to water when biosolids are applied to cropland. Examples include the effects of wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) process on P solubility in biosolids and biosolids-amended soils (Kyle and McClintock 1995; Maguire et al., 2000; Maguire et al., 2001), soil type (Lu and O'Connor, 2001; Penn and Sims, 2002), the method of biosolids application (Deizman et al., 1989), and the nature of the cropping system (e.g., conventional vs. no-tillage). Consequently, we conducted a field study comparing the effects of biosolids produced by different WWTP processes and the animal manure most commonly used in the Mid-Atlantic region (poultry litter) on soil P, with an emphasis on the forms of soil P most susceptible to runoff.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2175/193864703784292142

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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