Effects of Biosolids on Carbon Sequestration and Nitrogen Cycling
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Land application of biosolids has been demonstrated to improve nutrient availability (mainly N and P) and improve organic matter in soils, but the effects of biosolids on C sequestration and N cycling in the Mid-Atlantic region is not well understood. The objectives were: 1) to investigate soil C sequestration at sites with a long-term history of biosolids either in repeated application or single large application; 2) to characterize and compare soil C chemistry using advanced 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and C (1s) near edge x-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS) spectroscopic techniques; and 3) to compare biosolids types and tillage practices on short-term N availability in the Coastal Plain soils. Biosolids led to C accumulation in the soil surface (< 15 cm) after long-time application in both Piedmont and Coastal Plain soils. The C saturation phenomenon occurred in Coastal Plain soils, thus additional soil C accumulation was not achieved by increasing C inputs from biosolids to the Coastal Plain. Soil organic C from profiles in the field sites was not different at depths below the plow layer (15-60 cm). The quantitative NMR analyses concluded that O-alkyl C was the dominant form in the particulate organic matter (POM), followed by aromatic C, alkyl C, COO/N-C=O, aromatic C-O, OCH3 / NCH and ketones and aldehydes. The aliphatic C and aromatic C were enriched but the O-alkyl C was decreased in the biosolids-amended soils. The changes indicated that the biosolids-derived soil C was more decomposed and, thus, more stable than the control. The NEXAFS spectra showed that O-alkyl C was the dominant form in the POM extracted from biosolids-amended soils, followed by aromatic C, alkyl C, carboxylic C and phenolic C groups. These results were similar to those from NMR analysis. The regression and correlation analyses of C functional groups in the POM between NEXAFS and NMR indicated that both techniques had good sensitivity for the characterization of C from biosolids-amended soils. To evaluate short-term biosolids N availability, a three-year field study to investigate the effects of lime-stabilized (LS) and anaerobically digested (AD) biosolids on N availability in a corn-soybean rotation under conventional tillage and no-tillage practices was set up in 2009-2011. Results showed that both LS and AD biosolids increased spring soil nitrate N, plant tissue N at silking, post-season corn stalk nitrate N, grain yield, and soil total N by the end of the growing season. The same factors used to calculate plant available N for incorporated biosolids can be used on biosolids applied to no-till systems in coarse-textured soils. All these results indicated that the application of biosolids affects the long-term quantification and qualification of soil organic C and also improve short-term N availability in the Mid-Atlantic region.
- Doctoral Dissertations