Initial results from a long-term, multi-site field study of the effects on soil fertility and microbial activity of sludge cakes containing heavy metals

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Gibbs, P. A., Chambers, B. J., Chaudri, A. M., McGrath, S. P., Carlton-Smith, C. H., Bacon, J. R., Campbell, C. D. and Aitken, M. N. 2006. Initial results from a long-term, multi-site field study of the effects on soil fertility and microbial activity of sludge cakes containing heavy metals. Soil Use and Management. 22 (1), pp. 11-21.

AuthorsGibbs, P. A., Chambers, B. J., Chaudri, A. M., McGrath, S. P., Carlton-Smith, C. H., Bacon, J. R., Campbell, C. D. and Aitken, M. N.
Abstract

In a long-term study of the effects on soil fertility and microbial activity of heavy metals contained in sewage sludges, metal-rich sludge cakes each with high Zn, Cu or Cd concentrations were applied annually for 4 years (1994-1997) to nine sites throughout Britain. These sites were selected to represent agricultural soils with a range of physical and chemical properties, typical of those likely to be amended with sewage sludge. The aim was to establish individual total Zn (approx. 60-450 mg kg(-1)), total Cu (approx. 15-200 mg kg(-1)) and total Cd (approx. 0.2-4 mg kg(-1)) metal dose-response treatments at each site. Sludges with low metal concentrations were added to all treatments to achieve as constant an addition of organic matter Lis possible. Across the nine sites, soil pH was the single most important factor controlling Zn (P < 0.001; r(2) = 92%) and Cd extracted with 1 m NH4NO3 (p < 0.001; r(2) = 72%), and total iron content the most important factor controlling Cu extracted with 1 m NH4NO3 (P < 0.001; r(2) = 64%). There were also positive relationships (P < 0.001) between soil organic carbon (C) concentrations and soil biomass C and respiration rates across the nine sites. Oxidation of sludge C following land application resulted in approximately 45% of the digested sludge cake C and approximately 64% of the 'raw' sludge cake C being lost by the end of the 4-year application period. The sludge cake applications generally increased soil microbial biomass C and soil respiration rates, whilst most probable numbers of clover Rhizobium were generally unchanged. Overall, there was no evidence that the metal applications were damaging soil microbial activity in the short term after the cessation of sludge cake addition.

KeywordsSoil Science
Year of Publication2006
JournalSoil Use and Management
Journal citation22 (1), pp. 11-21
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1111/j.1475-2743.2006.00003.x
Open accessPublished as non-open access
Funder project or code512
ISSN02660032
PublisherWiley

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