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Keywords:

  • Biosolids;
  • residues;
  • nitrogen;
  • organic matter;
  • Oxisol;
  • Spodosol

Abstract

Sewage sludge is a valuable source of organic matter, N, P and certain micronutrients that have beneficial effects on plant growth and biomass production. However, sanitary regulations often require the stabilization of sewage materials prior to applying them to soils as biosolids. Environmental regulations also demand appropriate management of biosolid-N to avoid groundwater contamination. Because stabilization processes usually make sewage sludge less putrescible, we hypothesized that the mineralization rates of organic-N from stabilized biosolids would be affected. Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate the mineralization of five biosolids in two soils – a sandy Spodosol and a clayey Oxisol. Digested sludge, composted sludge, limed sludge, heat-dried sludge and solar-irradiated sludge were mixed with soil samples at a concentration of 32.6 mg N/kg soil (1.0 dry t/ha of digested sludge) and incubated at 25 °C in a humidity chamber for 23 weeks. Results showed that the stabilization processes generally slowed the release of mineral-N in soils relative to the digested sludge from which the biosolids originated. However, increments in the levels of mineral-N were more influenced by soil type than by the type of stabilization process applied to the sewage sludge. Mineralization rates were up to 5-fold higher in the Oxisol than in the Spodosol soil, and as a result, organic-N in biosolids mineralized 10–24% in Spodosol and 23–52% in Oxisol. Any appropriate plan for the management of biosolid-N for plant use should consider the interaction between soil type and biosolid type.