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Sustainable Uses of FGD Gypsum in Agricultural Systems: Introduction

Dexter B. Watts, Warren A. Dick
Journal of environmental quality 2014 v.43 no.1 pp. 246-252
agronomic traits, agronomy, coal, combustion, crop yield, environmental impact, gases, gypsum, mercury, power plants, production technology, soil physical properties, soil water, sulfur, sulfur dioxide, sustainable agriculture, sustainable technology, trace elements, water quality
Interest in using gypsum as a management tool to improve crop yields and soil and water quality has recently increased. Abundant supply and availability of flue gas desulfurization (FGD) gypsum, a by-product of scrubbing sulfur from combustion gases at coal-fired power plants, in major agricultural producing regions within the last two decades has attributed to this interest. Currently, published data on the long-term sustainability of FGD gypsum use in agricultural systems is limited. This has led to organization of the American Society of Agronomy’s Community “By-product Gypsum Uses in Agriculture” and a special collection of nine technical research articles on various issues related to FGD gypsum uses in agricultural systems. A brief review of FGD gypsum, rationale for the special collection, overviews of articles, knowledge gaps, and future research directions are presented in this introductory paper. The nine articles are focused in three general areas: (i) mercury and other trace element impacts, (ii) water quality impacts, and (iii) agronomic responses and soil physical changes. While this is not an exhaustive review of the topic, results indicate that FGD gypsum use in sustainable agricultural production systems is promising. The environmental impacts of FGD gypsum are mostly positive, with only a few negative results observed, even when applied at rates representing cumulative 80-year applications. Thus, FGD gypsum, if properly managed, seems to represent an important potential input into agricultural systems.