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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Pullman, Washington » Northwest Sustainable Agroecosystems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #347257

Research Project: Improving Air Quality, Soil Health and Nutrient Use Efficiency to Increase Northwest Agroecosystem Performance

Location: Northwest Sustainable Agroecosystems Research

Title: Chemical composition of windblown dust emitted from agricultural soils amended with biosolids

item PI, HUAWEI - Chinese Academy Of Agricultural Sciences
item Sharratt, Brenton
item SCHILLINGER, WILLIAM - Washington State University
item BARY, ANDREW - Washington State University
item COGGER, CRAIG - Washington State University

Submitted to: Aeolian Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/6/2018
Publication Date: 2/20/2018
Publication URL:
Citation: Pi, H., Sharratt, B.S., Schillinger, W., Bary, A., Cogger, C. 2018. Chemical composition of windblown dust emitted from agricultural soils amended with biosolids. Aeolian Research. 32:102-115.

Interpretive Summary: Biosolids are being increasingly applied to agricultural lands in the Inland Pacific Northwest where wind erosion causes exceedance of air quality standards. This management practice, however, could pose a threat to air quality because biosolids are enriched with heavy metals. ARS and Washington State University scientists found that biosolids applied to lands enrich the soil in metals and other nutrients, but this enrichment of the soil did not affect the chemical composition of airborne sediment eroded from lands during high winds. Thus, land application of biosolids may be a sustainable management option for farmers to meet crop fertilizer requirements without adversely affecting air quality.

Technical Abstract: Biosolids are increasingly being applied to agricultural lands in dry environments, but wind erosion of these lands might transport biosolid particulates offsite and impact environmental quality. Our objective was to use a wind tunnel to measure soil and windblown sediment concentrations of EPA-regulated metals as well as macronutrients and micronutrients from a biosolids field experiment. Experimental plots were subject to traditional (disk) or conservation (undercutter) tillage and application of biosolid or synthetic fertilizer during the summer fallow phase of a 2-year wheat-fallow rotation at Lind, WA. Application of biosolids or use of undercutter tillage resulted in higher concentrations of heavy metals in soil. Differences in metal concentrations between treatments, however, were not evident in windblown sediment. Similar results were found for nutrient concentrations in soil, but concentrations in windblown sediment were higher for biosolid than synthetic fertilizer and undercutter than disk tillage. Little difference was found in loss of heavy metals and nutrients in windblown sediment between biosolid and synthetic fertilizer treatments. Our results suggest that biosolids did not enhance the loss of metals or nutrients from soils during high winds.