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Effects of sewage sludge stabilization on fertilizer value and greenhouse gas emissions after soil application

Yoshida, Hiroko, Nielsen, Martin P., Scheutz, Charlotte, Jensen, Lars S., Christensen, Thomas H., Nielsen, Steen, Bruun, Sander
Acta agriculturæ Scandinavica 2015 v.65 no.6 pp. 506-516
agricultural land, anaerobic digestion, carbon dioxide, carbonates, composting, dewatering, drying, fertilizers, gases, greenhouse gas emissions, liming, methane, mineralization, nutrients, recycling, sewage sludge, soil, soil treatment, transportation
Application of sewage sludge on agricultural land becomes more and more common in many parts of the world in order to recycle the nutrients from the sludge. A range of sewage sludge stabilization techniques are available to make the sludge more stable prior to storage, transportation, and application. These stabilization techniques include dewatering, drying, anaerobic digestion, composting, and reed bed sludge treatment. However, very few studies have investigated the effect of these techniques after the sludge has been applied to agricultural land. The objective of the current study was therefore to investigate the effect of sewage sludge stabilization techniques on the C and N mineralization and gaseous emissions from soil. A soil incubation was conducted to determine the rate of C and N mineralization and N ₂O and CH ₄ emissions of sewage sludge stabilized using different techniques. Unstabilized sludge released up to 90% of their C content as CO ₂, part of which could be caused by release of CO ₂ from carbonates. Compared with this, sludge stabilization including anaerobic digestion and drying resulted in a reduction of the C mineralization rate of about 40%. Liming reduced C mineralization with around 29%, while treatment in a reed bed system reduced it by 74%. The current study thus clearly demonstrated that stabilization techniques resulted in sludge that was more stable once they were applied to agricultural land. Stabilization also reduced the N immobilization phase, potentially improving the value of the sludge as a fertilizer. Emissions of CH ₄ were also reduced through sludge stabilization and mainly occurred after application of easily degradable sludge types, which is likely to have enhanced the creation of anaerobic microsites. The stabilization processes also decreased emissions of N ₂O. The results for both CH ₄ and N ₂O indicate that the stabilization tends to reduce the chance of developing conditions where these gases could be produced.