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Soil and vegetation responses to amendment with pulverized classified paper waste

Ryan R. Busby, H. Allen Torbert, Stephen A. Prior
Soil & tillage research 2019 v.194 pp. 104328
Hapludalfs, Paleudults, detection limit, environmental impact, growing season, heavy metals, indigenous species, military lands, paper, physicochemical properties, recycling, sandy loam soils, soil amendments, soil quality, vegetation, wastes, United States
The United States Army produces a significant amount of classified paper waste that is pulverized to a fine consistency unsuitable for recycling. However, cheap, high quality organic materials such as classified paper waste are useful as soil amendments. The objective of this research was to evaluate the utilization of pulverized classified paper waste as a soil amendment to improve soil health and increase establishment of desirable native grasses on degraded Army training lands. Paper was applied at rates of 9 to 72 Mg ha⁻¹ to two soil types at Fort Polk, LA: an alfisol (very fine sandy loam - Fine, smectitic, thermic Chromic Vertic Hapludalfs) and an ultisol (loamy fine sandy - Loamy, siliceous, semiactive, thermic Arenic Paleudults). These are common soil orders found on military training lands nationwide and represent fertile (alfisol) and unfertile (ulitsol) soils. Vegetation and soils were monitored over 2 growing seasons. No increase in heavy metals were observed in soils. Extensive analysis showed very low levels of regulated contaminants in the paper, but most were below detection limits. The ultisol site showed improved soil physical and chemical properties, while desirable vegetation benefitted from nutrient immobilization at the alfisol site. Based on the results of this study, applying pulverized paper waste to soil at a rate of 35.9 Mg ha⁻¹ is recommended. Application of paper waste to soils had no adverse environmental effects, improved soil physiochemical properties, and facilitated establishment of desirable native vegetation.