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Sustaining Biosolids Recycling Under Phosphorus-Based Nutrient Management

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Forty-nine states have developed site assessment tools (Phosphorus (P) indices) to rank agricultural fields based on vulnerability to P loss. Because long-term biosolids application causes accumulation of soil P above concentrations needed for optimum crop yields, land-based recycling programs may be adversely affected by deployment of P management policies. Ninety-five active biosolids recycling fields were evaluated using the Pennsylvania P index. Without accounting for biosolids P solubility, only 22 of 95 fields qualify for standard nitrogen (N)-based biosolids application rates. Using biosolids-specific P source coefficients, based on laboratory testing, 76 fields could be managed by applying biosolids to satisfy crop N needs. Changes in crop management practices, biosolids application methods, and variables affecting crop / conservation practices were also evaluated as options for decreasing the overall P index ratings for the fields. A combination of measures could be used to qualify nearly all fields for N-based biosolids application. Adapting this approach to other state P site assessment tools is essential for sustaining land application as a biosolids recycling option.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2008

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