Nutrient availability in mineral sand tailings amended with yard waste compost and wood ash

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Virginia Tech


Mine tailings result from surface mining coastal plain soils and sediments and are redeposited in a slurry form to the mined area. Mine tailing contains a low amount of organic matter, a low pH, and a high P fixation capacity. This research was carried out in the Atlantic Coastal Plain region to determine if mine tailings reclamation could be accomplished by utilization of yard waste compost and wood ash. Yard waste compost was used to increase the organic matter content and wood to increase pH of the mine tailings. Field research was conducted to determine the effect of yard waste compost and wood ash incorporation into mine tailings on (Zea mays L.) and peanut (Arachis hypogaea) yields. Levels of yard waste compost applied to the mine tailings were 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 12% by weight, and wood ash was applied twice at a rate of 2.4 t ha⁻¹. Increases in corn and peanut yields on the mine tailings were attributed to increased available water from the application of yard waste compost and to increased pH from the application of wood ash.

Successful use of the yard waste compost and wood ashes for reclamation of the mine tailing is shown by the higher peanut yields on the tailings soils than adjacent natural soils. Although the corn grain yields were relatively high (up to 7830 kg ha⁻¹) where yard waste compost and wood ash were applied to the tailings, the overall corn grain yields were higher on the adjacent natural soil. Probable reasons for lower corn grain on the tailings were inadequate available water at times of maximum need and N and/or P deficiencies. Zinc deficiency was induced in corn plants by the high level of P fertilization required to overcome the high P fixation capacity of the mine tailings. The Zn deficiency could be corrected by either foliar or broadcast-disk in application of ZnSO₄.