Transformation of Carbon, Nitrogen and Phosphorus in Deep Row Biosolids Incorporation-Hybrid Poplar Plantation in Coastal Plain Mined Land Reclamation Sites

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Virginia Tech


Deep row incorporation (DRI) is a biosolids recycling method that is especially appropriate for reclaiming disturbed land because of the extremely high application rates used. Nutrient additions in excess of the vegetation requirements, especially in coarse-textured soils, can potentially impair water quality. Increasing C and N additions with biosolids DRI can also generate emissions of greenhouse gases N₂O and CH₄ and decrease the value of C sequestration. Objectives of this research were: (i) compare the effects of DRI biosolids type and rate and annual conventional fertilizer application on N and P leaching losses; (ii) determine the effects of aging on the N, C and P dynamics in the DRI biosolids seams; (iii) compare the effects of biosolids type and conventional N fertilization on N₂O, CH₄ and CO₂ emissions; and (iv) compare the effects of DRI biosolids and conventional N fertilization on hybrid poplar biomass dynamics, C, N and P sequestration. The following eight treatments were established to achieve objectives (i) and (iv): 0 (control), 167, 337, 504 kg N ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹ as conventional fertilizer; 213 and 426 Mg ha⁻¹ anaerobically digested (AD) and 328 and 656 Mg ha⁻¹ lime stabilized (LS) biosolids applied in trenches. The amount of N lost from the DRI biosolids was 261–803 kg N ha⁻¹, while the fertilizer treatments were not different from 0 kg N ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹ control. Orthophosphate and TKP leached in negligible amounts. Deep row biosolids incorporation did not pose P leaching risks but did result in high N leaching below the biosolids seams. Aboveground biomass production in the biosolids treatments was not different from the control treatment and ranged from 2.1±0.3 to 4.0±0.5 kg tree⁻¹. The fertilizer treatments produced significantly less biomass than the control and the biosolids treatments. Hybrid poplars sequestered up to 3.20±0.54 Mg C ha⁻¹, 71±12 kg N ha⁻¹, and 11.0±1.8 kg P ha⁻¹. The planting density capable of the N uptake in order to avoid N leaching was estimated at 3912 to 11363 trees ha⁻¹. Our results suggest increased hybrid poplar planting density and decreased application rates of DRI biosolids may decrease the risk of groundwater contamination with N. Three treatments were compared to address objective (ii): 426 Mg ha⁻¹ AD and 656 Mg ha⁻¹ LS biosolids. Organic C losses were 81 Mg ha⁻¹ and 33 Mg ha⁻¹ for LS and AD biosolids, respectively. Total N lost over the course of two years was 15.2 Mg ha⁻¹ and 10.9 Mg ha⁻¹ for LS and AD biosolids, respectively, which was roughly 50% of the N applied. No significant losses of P were detected. Most of the P was Al- and Fe-bound in the AD biosolids and Ca-bound in the LS biosolids. Our results indicated that recommended rates of DRI biosolids in coarse textured soils should be based on crop N requirements and N mineralization considerations, and P mobility from biosolids of the type used should not pose a water quality risk. Four treatments were compared to address objective (iii): 426 Mg ha⁻¹ AD and 656 Mg ha⁻¹ LS biosolids; 0 (control) and 504 kg N ha⁻¹ y⁻¹ as conventional fertilizer. Contributions from CH₄ and CO₂ emissions to the radiative forcing were very small compared to N₂O. More N₂O was produced in the DRI biosolids treatments than in the conventional fertilizer treatments, and N₂O production was higher in AD than in LS. Expressed as global warming potentials, N₂O emissions from AD (101.5 Mg C ha⁻¹) were 4.6 times higher than from LS and 14.5-16.1 times higher than from the fertilizer treatments. High N₂O emissions from deep row incorporated biosolids reduce the C sequestration benefits of the DRI method.



nutrient leaching, carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas emission, bioenergy crops, Sludge recycling