Biosolids Soil Application: Agronomic and Environmental Implications

  • White R
  • Torri S
  • Corrêa R
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World production of biosolids is ever increasing due to global population rise and social progress, particularly in emerging countries. While technologies to reduce, transform, or reuse biosolids are under continuous development, their safe use in agriculture is still considered the main feasible option. Land application of biosolids can significantly reduce sludge disposal costs and provide varying amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus to crops. The use of biosolids as a source of organic matter improves the physical and chemical properties of agricultural soils, resulting in an increase in crop yields. An explanation to this is that, by its nature, agriculture has a negative balance in terms of organic matter and soil nutrients content which leads, on the term, to soil physical degradation and reduced chemical and biochemical fertility. Agriculture use of biosolids still has a large consensus, being both a cost effective practice and a way to close the nutrient loop in agriculture and remediated degraded soils. The consensus is even increasing in the sight of the possible advantages of biosolids soil incorporation as a feasible way to balance anthropogenic greenhouse emissions. However, the complexity of both biosolids and soil systems, the rapid and large impact on the biogeochemical cycles, and the scale of agriculture still pose risks and uncertainties to predict their effects on the long term and global change scenario. This special issue aims to fill the current gaps in the knowledge of this specific field, although more research is surely needed in a near future. An aspect gaining worldwide attention is biosolids man-agement in terms of global C budget. Many experiments indicate that application of biosolids to land or opencast mines resulted in an increase in carbon reserves of soils from different regions and under different management practices. The potential of the main mechanisms controlling C seques-tration in soils amended with biosolids was discussed in the review article by S. Torri et al. The paper represents a revision of the latest knowledge on this topic, highlighting the role of the quality of the organic C (both from the soil and from the biosolids), soil biological components, soil properties, and the particular case of opencast mine sites. C. Wallace et al. simulated rainfall conditions on mixed (cool and native warm season) grasslands on sloping, rocky soils to estimate nutrient and bacteria levels in runoff from biosolids and mineral fertilizer. The ability of narrow vege-tated filter strips to reduce losses was evaluated. No significant differences were detected among mean fecal coliform levels despite large differences in magnitude. Losses of ammonia




White, R. E., Torri, S. I., & Corrêa, R. S. (2011). Biosolids Soil Application: Agronomic and Environmental Implications. Applied and Environmental Soil Science, 2011, 1–3.

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