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Title: Ecosystem biomass, carbon, and nitrogen five years after restoration with municipal solid waste

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

Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/25/2011
Publication Date: 9/1/2012
Citation: Watts, D.B., Arriaga, F.J., Torbert III, H.A., Gebhart, D.L., Busby, R.R. 2012. Ecosystem biomass, carbon, and nitrogen five years after restoration with municipal solid waste. Agronomy Journal. 104(5):1305-1311.

Interpretive Summary: To reduce the amount of municipal solid waste being landfilled, a new garbage processing technology has been developed. This technology sterilizes and separates the municipal solid waste into recyclables (metals and plastics) and an organic material called Fluff®. The Fluff material could be land applied to improve soil conditions. A study was conducted to determine if the Fluff could be used for establishing and maintaining native grass cover for five years in a highly degraded borrow pit. Native grass establishment was successful with the use of Fluff. Benefits of Fluff on native grass establishment could be observed five years after Fluff application. However, natural recovery of vegetation at the borrow site was unsuccessful after five years. The benefits of Fluff on plant growth were also observed in plant roots. Fluff addition to soil also decreased compaction of the soil and increased soil C and N concentrations. This study showed that Fluff could be used as an alternative to the current waste management practices for reclamation of degraded land.

Technical Abstract: Escalating municipal solid waste generation coupled with decreasing landfill space needed for disposal has increased the pressure on military installations to evaluate novel approaches to handle this waste. One approach to alleviating the amount of municipal solid waste being landfilled is the use of a new garbage-processing technology that sterilizes and separates 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 establishing native prairie grasses on disturbed US Army training land. The Fluff material was 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 seeded with native prairie grasses to assess its effect on above- and below-ground biomass production and carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling after five years. An unseeded control (no Fluff) treatment was also evaluated as a comparison of natural recovery. After five years, revegetation resulting from natural recovery in the unseeded control was sparse. However, Fluff addition improved native grass establishment, with greater biomass production being observed with increasing rates. Fluff addition also decreased soil bulk density and increased soil C and N concentrations. These results show that Fluff can be effectively used in land rehabilitation and revegetation practices as well as to improve C and N cycling of highly degraded soils for periods exceeding five years after application.