Infrequent composted biosolids applications affect semi-arid grassland soils and vegetation.J Environ Manage 2010; 91(5):1123-30JE
Monitoring of repeated composted biosolids applications is necessary for improving beneficial reuse program management strategies, because materials will likely be reapplied to the same site at a future point in time. A field trial evaluated a single and a repeated composted biosolids application in terms of long-term (13-14 years) and short-term (2-3 years) effects, respectively, on soil chemistry and plant community in a Colorado semi-arid grassland. Six composted biosolids rates (0, 2.5, 5, 10, 21, 30 Mg ha(-1)) were surface applied in a split-plot design study with treatment (increasing compost rates) as the main factor and co-application time (1991, or 1991 and 2002) as the split factor applications. Short- and long-term treatment effects were evident in 2004 and 2005 for soil 0-8 cm depth pH, EC, NO(3)-N, NH(4)-N, total N, and AB-DTPA soil Cd, Cu, Mo, Zn, P, and Ba. Soil organic matter increases were still evident 13 and 14 years following composted biosolids application. The repeated composted biosolids application increased soil NO(3)-N and NH(4)-N and decreased AB-DTPA extractable Ba as compared to the single composted biosolids application in 2004; differences between short- and long-term applications were less evident in 2005. Increasing biosolids rates resulted in increased native perennial grass cover in 2005. Plant tissue Cu, Mo, Zn, and P concentrations increased, while Ba content decreased depending on specific plant species and year. Overall, the lack of many significant negative effects suggests that short- or long-term composted biosolids application at the rates studied did not adversely affect this semi-arid grassland ecosystem.