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Effects of thermal drying on phosphorus availability from iron‐precipitated sewage sludge

Lemming, Camilla, Scheutz, Charlotte, Bruun, Sander, Jensen, Lars Stoumann, Magid, Jakob
Zeitschrift für Pflanzenernährung und Bodenkunde 2017 v.180 no.6 pp. 720-728
Hordeum vulgare, drying, drying temperature, fertilizers, phosphorus, sanitation, sewage sludge, soil, soil treatment, spring barley, triple superphosphate, wastewater treatment
Thermal drying of sewage sludge implies sanitation and improves practical handling options of the sludge prior to land application. However, it may also affect its value as a fertilizer. The objective of this study was to assess whether thermal drying of sewage sludge, as well as drying temperature, affects plant P availability after application to soil. The experiment included dewatered sewage sludge (20% DM) and thermally dried sewage sludge (95% DM) collected at a Danish wastewater treatment plant, as well as laboratory oven‐dried (70, 130, 190, and 250°C; DM > 95%) subsamples of the dewatered sludge, and a triple superphosphate as a reference. Plant P availability was studied in a 197 d soil incubation experiment, with sampling for Diffusive Gradients in Thin films (DGT) and water extractable P (WEP) analyses over time, and in a pot experiment with spring barley (Hordeum vulgare L.). In both experiments, thermal drying reduced P availability, as shown by 37 and 23% lower DGT and WEP values, respectively, and a 16% lower P uptake by barley in the pot experiment. The specific drying temperature did not appear to have much effect. Overall, our results suggest that thermal drying of iron‐precipitated sewage sludge is not an optimal treatment option if the aim is to optimize plant P availability.