Soil Science Society of America

Phosphorus runoff from wastewater treatment biosolids and poultry litter applied to agricultural soils

Received for publication March 19, 2009. Differences in the properties of organic phosphorus (P) sources, particularly those that undergo treatment to reduce soluble P, can affect soil P solubility and P transport in surface runoff. This 2-yr field study investigated soil P solubility and runoff P losses from two agricultural soils in the Mid-Atlantic region after land application of biosolids derived from different waste water treatment processes and poultry litter. Phosphorus speciation in the biosolids and poultry litter differed due to treatment processes and significantly altered soil P solubility and dissolved reactive P (DRP) and bioavailable P (FeO-P) concentrations in surface runoff. Runoff total P (TP) concentrations were closely related to sediment transport. Initial runoff DRP and FeO-P concentrations varied among the different biosolids and poultry litter applied. Over time, as sediment transport declined and DRP concentrations became an increasingly important component of runoff FeO-P and TP, total runoff P was more strongly influenced by the type of biosolids applied. Throughout the study, application of lime-stabilized biosolids and poultry litter increased concentrations of soil-soluble P, readily desorbable P, and soil P saturation, resulting in increased DRP and FeO-P concentrations in runoff. Land application of biosolids generated from waste water treatment processes that used amendments to reduce P solubility (e.g., FeCl3) did not increase soil P saturation and reduced the potential for DRP and FeO-P transport in surface runoff. These results illustrate the importance of waste water treatment plant process and determination of specific P source coefficients to account for differential P availability among organic P sources.

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