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Applied and Environmental Soil Science
Volume 2015, Article ID 715916, 10 pages
Research Article

Surface-Applied Biosolids Enhance Soil Organic Carbon and Nitrogen Stocks but Have Contrasting Effects on Soil Physical Quality

1Agroecosystem Management Research Unit, United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), 137 Keim Hall, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68583-0937, USA
2Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS, 808 East Blackland Road, Temple, TX 76502-6712, USA
3Resource Assessment Division, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, 808 East Blackland Road, Temple, TX 76502-6712, USA

Received 19 September 2014; Revised 10 November 2014; Accepted 10 November 2014

Academic Editor: Leonid Perelomov

Copyright © 2015 Virginia L. Jin et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Mid- to long-term impacts of land applying biosolids will depend on application rate, duration, and method; biosolids composition; and site-specific characteristics (e.g., climate, soils). This study evaluates the effects of surface-broadcast biosolids application rate and duration on soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks, soil aggregate stability, and selected soil hydraulic properties in a municipally operated, no-till forage production system. Total SOC stocks (0–45 cm soil) increased nonlinearly with application rate in perennial grass fields treated for 8 years with 0, 20, 40, or 60 Mg of Class B biosolids (DM) ha−1 yr−1 (midterm treatments). Soil organic C stocks in long-term treatment fields receiving 20 years of 20 Mg ha−1 yr−1 were 36% higher than those in midterm fields treated at the same rate. Surface-applying biosolids had contrasting effects on soil physical properties. Soil bulk density was little affected by biosolids applications, but applications were associated with decreased water-stable soil aggregates, increased soil water retention, and increased available water-holding capacity. This study contrasts the potential for C storage in soils treated with surface-applied biosolids with application effects on soil physical properties, underscoring the importance of site-specific management decisions for the beneficial reuse of biosolids in agricultural settings.