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Title: Non-composted municipal solid waste byproduct influences soil and plant nutrients five years after soil reclamation

item Watts, Dexter
item Arriaga, Francisco
item Torbert, Henry - Allen
item BUSBY, RYAN - Us Army Corp Of Engineers (USACE)
item GEBHART, DICK - Us Army Corp Of Engineers (USACE)

Submitted to: Soil Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/27/2012
Publication Date: 8/1/2012
Citation: Watts, D.B., Arriaga, F.J., Torbert III, H.A., Busby, R., Gebhart, D.L. 2012. Non-composted municipal solid waste byproduct influences soil and plant nutrients five years after soil reclamation. Soil Science. 177:480-489.

Interpretive Summary: Municipal solid waste disposal is becoming a major problem on military installations. A new garbage processing technology that sterilizes and separates municipal waste into recyclables (metals and plastics) and an organic byproduct has been developed. A study was conducted to see if land applying the organic byproduct (Fluff®) on highly degraded land would improve the soil fertility for at least five years. Native grass was planted in the degraded soil amended with Fluff. Five years after land applying Fluff, areas that did not receive Fluff or native grass seeds produced very sparse vegetation. However, where native grass seeds were sown with Fluff, good plant establishment was observed five years after application. The Fluff also improved soil pH, organic matter, and nutrient availability in the native grass plants and soil. This study shows that Fluff can be used to establish plants and improve the soil health of highly degraded land.

Technical Abstract: Concerns for the mounting supply of municipal solid waste being generated combined with decreasing landfill space have compelled military installations to evaluate alternative methods for disposal. One approach to reduce landfilling is the use of a new garbage-processing technology that sterilizes and separates the waste into inorganic and organic components. Thus, a study was initiated to evaluate the effectiveness of using the organic component (Fluff) as a soil amendment for reclamation of disturbed US Army training land. The Fluff material was initially incorporated (10-20 cm) into a highly degraded sandy loam soil located in a borrow pit at Fort Benning Military Reservation, GA, in 2003. The Fluff was applied at rates of 0, 18, 36, 72, and 143 Mg ha-1 and the soil was seeded with native prairie grasses. Soil nutrient storage and plant nutrient retention was evaluated to determine the soil-plant system’s sustainability after five years. An unseeded control was also evaluated as a comparison of natural recovery. Five years after reclamation, vegetation resulting from natural recovery in the unseeded control was sparse. Fluff addition improved pH, organic matter, and plant nutrient availability in the degraded soil with the greatest improvements occurring at higher application rates. Soil productivity improvements resulted in greater plant biomass production. Generally, plant nutrient concentrations were not significantly impacted by Fluff addition. However, plant nutrient content was consistently higher with Fluff addition, which was attributed improved biomass production. Plant nutrient uptake of N, Ca, Mg, B, Mn, and Zn were within the normal range for grasses, whereas P and K concentrations were slightly deficient. A Fe and Mn toxicity problem at the borrow site was alleviated with higher Fluff application rates, while the control and lower Fluff rates accumulated high levels of Fe and Cu within plant tissues. These results show that Fluff can be effectively used in land rehabilitation and revegetation practices to create a sustainable native grassland ecosystem.