Problem: Biosolids are the nutrient-rich organic materials from the treatment of sewage sludge. Land-application of biosolids reduces pressure on land-fills and also may improve soil fertility and stimulate plant growth. In USA, EPA 40 CFR Part 503 rule governs the use and disposal of biosolids, numerical limits for metals in biosolids, pathogen reduction standards, site restriction, and crop harvesting restrictions and monitoring. Class A biosolids may have potential for managing fertility of degraded urban soils with trees. However, a limited body of knowledge exists for this area of study.
Goals: We are performing research to determine the effects of biosolids on: (1) urban soil properties (2) tree growth and health. We are also considering the socioeconomic advantages and disadvantages of using biosolids for managing urban trees.
Methods: Studies are currently being performed in greenhouse and tree nursery settings. In 2010, we initiated a large scale field study in the Morton Arboretum Tree Nursery examining biosolids and other organic mulch top-dressings on turf with five common urban trees. Soil quality and tree health and growth are assessed annually in the nursery plot. We have also performed and are performing multiple greenhouse studies with biosolids and urban trees.
Personnel: Dr. Bryant Scharenbroch and Michelle Catania led this research.
Funding: The Morton Arboretum.
Scharenbroch, B.C., E. Meza, M. Catania, and K. Fite. 2013. Biochar and biosolids increase tree growth and improve soil quality for urban landscapes. Journal of Environmental Quality. doi:10.2134/jeq2013.04.0124.
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