Sustainable use of sewage sludge as a source of nitrogen... phosphorus in cropping systems by

Sustainable use of sewage sludge as a source of nitrogen... phosphorus in cropping systems by

Sustainable use of sewage sludge as a source of nitrogen and phosphorus in cropping systems by

Eyob Habte Tesfamariam

Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree PhD (Agric) Agronomy in the

Department of Plant Production and Soil Science

Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences

University of Pretoria

Supervisor: Prof. J. G. Annandale

Co-supervisor: Dr. J. M. Steyn

Prof. R.J. Stirzaker

01 Sep. 2009

© U n i i v e r r s s i i t t y o f f P r r e t t o r r i i a

DECLARATION

I the undersigned, declare that the thesis, which I hereby submit for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Pretoria, is my own work, except where acknowledged in the text, and has not previously been submitted by me for a degree at this or any other tertiary institution.

Eyob Habte Tesfamariam

1 Sep. 2009

2

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

First I must thank God, the alpha and omega of all creation. His words are my comfort in all aspects of my life. “He gives power to the weary; and to him with no vigour; He increases strength. Even the young shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall; but those who wait on Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:27-31).

Next I would like to thank my supervisor Prof. J.G. Annandale for his guidance, support, and encouragement. I am sincerely indebted to his organisation of funding through WRC, ERWAT and SASOL, without which this degree would have been but a dream.

I especially thank Dr JM Steyn, my co-supervisor, for his encouragement, guidance, and support to complete this study.

A special thanks goes to Prof. R.J. Stirzaker, my co-supervisor, for his encouragement, keen advice, and prompt responses despite distance barriers.

I would like to thank ERWAT, SASOL, and WRC for financial support without which this study would not have been carried out.

3

My thanks also goes to Dr N Benadé and Mr M. Van der Laan, for their patience when working with the N model. I thank Mr Adam and Ms Nina from ARC soil, water, and climate who helped us with chemical analysis of soil and plant samples. I greatly appreciate the personnel on the experimental farm who helped me with technical assistance, especially Mr L Nonyane for his indispensable effort in gathering field data. My thanks also go to fellow graduate students of the

Department of Plant Production and Soil Science for their encouragement.

Finally, I would like to thank my parents, especially my father, who wished my success at any cost at his disposal, my mother, my brothers and sisters. I would like to say thanks a lot to my wife Aster for putting up with me for the past five years.

4

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS........................................................................... 3

TABLE OF CONTENTS.............................................................................. 5

LIST OF TABLES ....................................................................................... 9

LIST OF FIGURES.................................................................................... 17

LIST OF ACRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS ....................................... 22

ABSTRACT............................................................................................... 23

CHAPTER 1 .............................................................................................. 26

GENERAL INTRODUCTION .......................................................................... 26

REFERENCES ...................................................................................................33

CHAPTER 2 .............................................................................................. 37

LITERATURE REVIEW................................................................................... 37

2.1 Background information ................................................................................37

2.2. Sewage sludge types, characteristics, and agricultural use.........................39

2.2.1 Sewage sludge types............................................................................... 39

2.2.2 Nitrogen and sewage sludge.................................................................. 42

2.2.3 Phosphorus and sewage sludge............................................................ 48

2.2.4 Utilising sewage sludge on agricultural lands...................................... 50

2.2.5 Sludge application rates on agricultural lands..................................... 53

2.2.6 Classification of sludge for use on agricultural lands ......................... 56

2.2.7 Experiences with sewage sludge on cropping systems..................... 61

2.3 Nitrogen modelling ........................................................................................66

2.3.1 Mineralization............................................................................................ 69

2.3.2 Immobilization........................................................................................... 73

2.3.3 Nitrification................................................................................................. 74

2.3.4 Denitrification ............................................................................................ 77

2.3.5 Ammonia volatilization............................................................................. 79

2.3.6 Crop nitrogen uptake ............................................................................... 81

2.4 Motivation for this study ................................................................................82

REFERENCES ...................................................................................................88

5

CHAPTER 3 ............................................................................................ 108

MATERIALS AND METHODS...................................................................... 108

3.1 Field site description ...................................................................................108

3.2 Sludge characteristics.................................................................................108

3.3 Field trial and treatments.............................................................................110

3.3.1 Dryland maize and irrigated maize/oats rotation............................... 110

3.3.2 Weeping lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula)............................................ 114

3.3.3 Turfgrass (Kikuyu, Pennisetum clandestinum Hochst. ex Chiov.) . 117

3.4 Rainfall and irrigation ..................................................................................118

3.4.1 Rainfall ..................................................................................................... 118

3.4.2 Irrigation ................................................................................................... 118

3.5 Soil solution sampling and analyses ...........................................................121

3.6 Plant sampling ............................................................................................122

3.6.1 Dryland and irrigated maize.................................................................. 122

3.6.2 Irrigated oats ........................................................................................... 123

3.6.3 Weeping lovegrass................................................................................. 123

3.6.4 Turfgrass.................................................................................................. 124

3.7 Soil sampling...............................................................................................125

3.7.1 Dryland maize and irrigated maize/oats rotation............................... 126

3.7.2 Dryland pasture ...................................................................................... 126

3.7.3 Turfgrass.................................................................................................. 127

3.8 Plant and soil chemical analyses ................................................................128

3.9 Additional methods involved in turfgrass trial ..............................................129

3.9.1 Mowing and sod harvest ....................................................................... 129

3.9.2 Soil loss through sod lifting................................................................... 129

3.9.3 Turfgrass establishment rate................................................................ 130

3.10 Model parameter description.....................................................................130

3.10.1 Crop growth model............................................................................... 131

3.10.2 Nitrogen model ..................................................................................... 133

3.11 Statistical analyses ...................................................................................134

REFERENCES .................................................................................................135

CHAPTER 4 ............................................................................................ 137

AGRONOMIC CROPS .................................................................................. 137

4.1 Grain and forage yield.................................................................................138

4.1.1 Grain yield ............................................................................................... 138

4.1.2 Forage yield............................................................................................. 141

4.2 Crop N uptake.............................................................................................144

4.2.1 Grain N uptake........................................................................................ 144

4.2.2 Forage N uptake..................................................................................... 147

4.3 Soil profile total N mass balance, residual nitrate and ammonium, and

nitrate leaching..........................................................................................153

4.3.1 Total N mass balance............................................................................ 153

4.3.2. Residual nitrate...................................................................................... 157

4.3.3 Residual ammonium .............................................................................. 158

6

4.3.4 Nitrate leaching....................................................................................... 159

4.4 Total P mass balance and residual Bray-1P ...............................................162

4.4.1 Total P mass balance ............................................................................ 162

4.4.2 Soil profile residual Bray-1 extractable P ........................................... 166

4.5 Conclusions ................................................................................................170

REFERENCES .................................................................................................173

CHAPTER 5 ............................................................................................ 178

PERENNIAL DRYLAND PASTURE - WEEPING LOVEGRASS (Eragrostis

curvula L.) .................................................................................................... 178

5.1 Hay yield, crude protein content, and water use efficiency .........................179

5.1.1 Hay yield .................................................................................................. 179

5.1.2 Crude protein content ............................................................................ 183

5.1.3 Effect of sludge application rate on rainfall use efficiency............... 186

5.2 Hay N uptake ..............................................................................................189

5.3 Soil profile total N mass balance, nitrate leaching, residual nitrate and

ammonium ..................................................................................................193

5.3.1 Total N mass balance............................................................................ 193

5.3.2 Residual nitrate and nitrate leaching................................................... 197

5.3.3 Residual ammonium .............................................................................. 199

5.4 Total P mass balance and residual Bray-1P ...............................................202

5.4.1 Total P mass balance ............................................................................ 202

5.4.2 Soil profile residual Bray-1 extractable P ........................................... 204

5.5 Conclusions ................................................................................................206

REFERENCES .................................................................................................209

CHAPTER 6 ............................................................................................ 214

TURFGRASS ................................................................................................ 214

6.1 Turfgrass growth and quality.......................................................................215

6.1.1 Establishment rate ................................................................................. 215

6.1.2 Turfgrass colour...................................................................................... 215

6.1.3 Sod integrity ............................................................................................ 218

6.2 Accumulation of N and P in soil below active root zone..............................219

6.2.1 Nitrogen ................................................................................................... 219

6.2.2 Phosphorus ............................................................................................. 224

6.3 Soil loss through sod harvesting .................................................................228

6.4 Nitrate and salt leaching .............................................................................229

6.4.1 Nitrate leaching....................................................................................... 230

6.4.2. Salt leaching........................................................................................... 231

6.5 Conclusions ................................................................................................234

REFERENCES .................................................................................................237

7

CHAPTER 7 ............................................................................................ 240

NITROGEN MODELLING ............................................................................. 240

7.1 Model calibration.........................................................................................240

7.2 Model corroboration ....................................................................................244

7.2.1 Agronomic crops..................................................................................... 245

7.2.2 Weeping lovegrass................................................................................. 250

7.3 Conclusions ................................................................................................259

REFERENCES .................................................................................................260

CHAPTER 8 ............................................................................................ 261

CONCLUSIONS............................................................................................ 261

REFERENCES .................................................................................................266

APPENDIX .............................................................................................. 267

8

LIST OF TABLES

Table 2.1 Effects of sewage sludge treatment processes on sludge properties and land application practices (Adapted from US EPA, 1984)............41

Table 2.2 Estimates of nitrogen mineralization for various sludge treatment methods in the year of application (percent of initial organic N)

(adapted from Henry et al., 1999).......................................................45

Table 2.3 Nitrogen mineralization rate estimate ranges for all types of sludge for years following the application year (percent of the remaining organic

N) (adapted from Henry et al., 1999). .................................................45

Table 2.4 Ammonia volatilization rates from Northwest Biosolids applied in western Washington (maritime climate) (adapted from Henry et al.,

1999). .................................................................................................47

Table 2.5 Suggested denitrification values for sludges applied to agricultural lands in the Pacific Northwest, USA (adapted from Henry et al., 1999).

...........................................................................................................48

Table 2.6 Annual sewage sludge produced and the percentage applied to agricultural lands for 15 European Countries and USA. (USA and EU

(AEA Technology Environment, 2002); Australia (Priestley, 1991);

South Africa (Lötter and Pitman, 1997)) .............................................51

Table 2.7 A few of the pathogens that could potentially be present in municipal sewage sludge and the diseases or symptoms they cause (adapted from U.S. EPA, 1995). ........................................................................57

9

Table 2.8 South African preliminary classification: microbiological class (Snyman and Herselman, 2006) compared with the USA (US EPA, 1995); (US

EPA, 2003). ........................................................................................58

Table 2.9 South African preliminary classification: pollutant class (Snyman and

Herselman, 2006) compared with the US land application pollutant limits (US EPA, 1995) and proposed EU maximum permissible limits in sludge in mg kg

-1

(IC Consultants, 2001)............................................59

Table 2.10 South African preliminary classification: Stability class (Snyman and

Herselman, 2006). ..............................................................................60

Table 2.11 Permissible utilisation of sludge in agricultural applications based on the South African sludge classification system (adapted from Snyman and Herselman, 2006) ........................................................................61

Table 3.1 Chemical characteristics of anaerobically digested, paddy dried sludge used during the 2004/05 – 2007/08 growing seasons (source

Vlakplaats wastewater treatment plant)............................................109

Table 3.2 Inorganic fertilizer application timing and type of fertilizer applied to dryland maize, irrigated maize, and irrigated oats during the 2004/05 to

2007/08 growing seasons at ERWAT, Ekurhuleni district, South Africa.

.........................................................................................................113

Table 3.3 Planting and harvesting dates for dryland maize, irrigated maize, and irrigated oats experiment conducted during the 2004/05-2007/08 growing seasons at ERAWAT, Ekurhuleni district, South Africa.......114

10

Table 3.4 Sludge applications and hay cutting dates for Weeping lovegrass during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 growing seasons at ERWAT, Ekurhuleni district, South Africa..........................................................................116

Table 3.5 Type of fertilizer applied and application timing for a weeping lovegrass experiment during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 growing seasons at

ERWAT, Ekurhuleni district, South Africa.........................................116

Table 3.6 Monthly rainfall distributions during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 growing seasons at ERWAT, Ekurhuleni district, South Africa.......................120

Table 4.1 Dryland maize grain yield response to three sludge application rates, a control, and an inorganic fertilizer treatment during the 2004/05 to

2007/08 growing season. .................................................................138

Table 4.2 Irrigated maize-oat rotation grain yield response to three sludge application rates, a control, and an inorganic fertilizer treatment during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 growing seasons.........................................140

Table 4.3 Dryland maize forage yield response to three sludge application rates, a control, and an inorganic fertilizer treatment during the 2004/05 to

2007/08 growing seasons.................................................................142

Table 4.4 Irrigated maize-oat rotation forage yield response to three sludge application rates, a control, and an inorganic fertilizer treatment during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 growing seasons.........................................143

Table 4.5 Dryland maize grain N uptake from a clay loam soil treated with three sludge application rates, an inorganic fertilizer, and a control during the

2004/05 to 2007/08 growing seasons...............................................145

11

Table 4.6 Irrigated maize-oat rotation grain N uptake from a clay loam soil treated with three sludge application rates, an inorganic fertilizer, and a control during the 2004 to 2007/08 growing seasons. ..................................146

Table 4.7 Dryland maize forage N uptake from a clay loam soil treated with three sludge application rates, an inorganic fertilizer, and a control during the

2004/05 to 2007/08 growing seasons...............................................147

Table 4.8 Irrigated maize-oat rotation forage N uptake from a clay loam soil treated with three sludge application rates, an inorganic fertilizer, and a control during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 growing seasons. .................149

Table 4.9 Cumulative grain and forage N uptake by dryland maize and irrigated maize oat rotation during the 2004-2008 study period......................152

Table 4.10 Cumulative N mass balances (N supply less uptake) of dryland maize and irrigated maize-oat rotation for the 2004/05 to 2007/08 growing seasons. ...........................................................................................154

Table 4.11 Cumulative N applied less forage N uptake, soil profile N change in storage and mass balance difference between the supply less forage uptake and change in storage for the 2004/05 to 2006/07 growing seasons. ...........................................................................................156

Table 4.12 Residual nitrate mass after crop harvest in the top 0.6 m soil stratum of dryland maize and irrigated maize-oat rotation during the 2004/05 to

2006/07 growing seasons.................................................................158

12

Table 4.13 Residual ammonium mass after crop harvest in the top 0.6 m soil profile of dryland maize and irrigated maize-oat rotation during the

2004/05 to 2006/07 growing seasons...............................................159

Table 4.14 Cumulative P mass balances (supply less forage uptake) of dryland maize and irrigated maize-oat rotation during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 growing seasons...............................................................................163

Table 4.15 Cumulative soil profile P change in storage and mass balance difference between the supply less forage uptake mass balance and change in storage. ............................................................................165

Table 4.16 Residual Bray-1P mass after crop harvest in the top 0.6 m soil profile of dryland maize and irrigated maize-oat rotation during the 2004/05 to

2006/07 growing seasons.................................................................167

Table 4.17 Cumulative P applied, total plant available P, normalized plant available P, and the percentage of Bray-1P in contrast to the total P applied during the 2004/05 to 2006/07 growing seasons. ................169

Table 5.1 Annual hay yield of weeping lovegrass as affected by three sludge application rates, inorganic fertilizer, and control..............................179

Table 5.2 Weeping lovegrass hay yield per cut of three sludge application rates, an inorganic fertilizer, and a control during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 growing seasons...............................................................................181

Table 5.3 Crude protein content of weeping lovegrass as affected by three sludge application rates, an inorganic fertilizer treatment, and a control......185

13

Table 5.4 Annual rainfall use efficiency of weeping lovegrass as affected by three sludge application rates, an inorganic fertilizer, and a control. .........187

Table 5.5 Rainfall use efficiency of weeping lovegrass per cut as affected by three sludge application rates, an inorganic fertilizer, and a control. 188

Table 5.6 Annual weeping lovegrass N uptake from three sludge application rates, inorganic fertilizer treatment, and a control during the 2004/05 to

2007/08 growing seasons.................................................................189

Table 5.7 Weeping lovegrass hay N uptake per cut from three sludge application rates, inorganic fertilizer treatment, and a control.............................190

Table 5.8 Cumulative N supply (CUM NS)), uptake (CUM NU), and mass balance of a weeping lovegrass treated with three sludge application rates, inorganic fertilizer, and a control.......................................................194

Table 5.9 Residual nitrate mass in the top 0.5 m soil stratum of weeping lovegrass plots treated with three sludge rates, an inorganic fertilizer, and a control treatment.....................................................................197

Table 5.10 Residual ammonium mass in the top 0.5 m soil stratum after every second weeping lovegrass hay cut during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 growing seasons...............................................................................200

Table 5.11 Cumulative total P supply (CUM-PS), uptake (CUM-PU), and mass balance of a weeping lovegrass treated with three sludge rates, inorganic fertilizer, and a control.......................................................202

14

Table 5.12 Residual Bray-1P in the top 0.5 m soil stratum after the second hay cut of dryland pasture (weeping lovegrass) during the 2004/05 to

2007/08 growing seasons.................................................................206

Table 6.1 Kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum Hochst. ex Chiov.) turfgrass sod quality (establishment rates (% mean vegetative cover), visual colour ratings, and sod integrity) as affected by five sludge application rates during the 2005 and 2006 growing seasons at East Rand Water Care

Works, Johannesburg, South Africa. ................................................216

Table 6.2. Total N imported with sludge, vs. exported with sods and clippings during the 2004/05 and 2005/06 growing seasons at East Rand Water

Care Works, Johannesburg, South Africa.........................................221

Table 6.3 Total nitrogen and total phosphorus mass balances after two years of sludge application and sod harvest events for five sludge application rates during the 2005 and 2006 growing seasons ............................222

Table 6.4 Total phosphorus imported with sludge, vs. exported with sods and clippings during the 2005 and 2006 growing seasons at East Rand

Water Care Works, Johannesburg, South Africa. .............................225

Table 6.5. Sod mass and cumulative soil thickness exported with turfgrass sods as affected by five sludge application rates after two consecutive sludge application and sod harvest events at East Rand Water Care

Works, Johannesburg, South Africa. ................................................229

Table 7.1 Model evaluation statistical parameters with their reliability criteria

(after De Jager, 1994) ......................................................................241

15

Table 7.2 Statistical parameters of the SWB model calibration simulations for maize, oats, and weeping lovegrass during the 2004/05 growing season. .............................................................................................244

Table 7.3 Statistical parameters of the SWB model corroboration for maize, oats, and weeping lovegrass using combined data collected during the

2004/05 to 2007/08 growing seasons...............................................246

Table 7.4 Statistical parameters of the SWB model corroboration for weeping lovegrass without and with updating soil water content after every hay cut using combined data collected during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 growing seasons...............................................................................250

Table A1 Selected macro nutrients and heavy metals supplied from three

sludge rates to dryland maize, irrigated maize-oat rotation and dryland

pasture during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 growing seasons ..…………268

Table A2 Selected macro nutrients and heavy metals supplied from three

sludge rates to turfgrass sod production during the 2004/05 to 2005/06

growing seasons..……………………………………………………….269

Table A3 Statistical parameters of the SWB model corroboration for weeping

lovegrass (Soil water content updated after every hay cut) using

combined data collected during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 growing

seasons…………………………………………………………………..270

16

LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 2.1 Simplified nitrogen cycle in terrestrial plant-soil system. ....................43

Figure 2.2 Nitrogen requirement of maize during the growing season and nitrogen availability from fertilizer compared with sludge (adapted from

Muse et al., 1991)...............................................................................52

Figure 4.1 Three year cumulative mean N uptake by the 16 Mg ha

-1

yr

-1

sludge treated irrigated maize-oat rotation and dryland maize (bars) versus total N supply from sludge 8 Mg ha

-1

yr

-1

) (former norm) and 10 Mg ha

-1

yr

-1

(current norm) with variable N contents (2.56% mean value in his study vs.

3.85% South African sludge mean value (Snyman and Herselman, 2006)).

………………………………………………………………………………….151

Figure 4.2 Soil profile total N content at the beginning of the study before treatment application (initial) and at the end of three years of study

(2006/07)………………………………………………………………………155

Figure 4.3 Nitrate concentration of leachate collected from 0.3 m (a) and 0.6 m

(b) depth wetting front detectors in an irrigated maize-oat rotation during the 2006/07 growing season (arrows indicate inorganic fertilizer application events)……………………………………………………………161

Figure 4.4 Soil profile initial total P content in contrast to P content change following three years of study with three sludge application rates, inorganic fertilizer treatment, and a control (zero sludge and inorganic fertilizer applied)………………………………………………………………………164

17

Figure 5.1 Rainfall distribution during the first and second cuts of weeping lovegrass planted during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 growing seasons, at

ERWAT, Ekurhuleni district, South Africa.........................................182

Figure 5.2 Weeping lovegrass hay yield as affected by rainfall amount and sludge application rate......................................................................183

Figure 5.3 Sludge application rate to satisfy four year mean weeping lovegrass N demand (247 kg N ha

-1

) as affected by sludge N content and N carry over effects.......................................................................................192

Figure 5.4 Initial soil profile total N and after four years of study with three sludge rates (4, 8, and 16 Mg ha

-1

yr

-1

), an inorganic fertilizer (200 kg N ha

-1 yr

-1

), and a control.............................................................................196

Figure 5.5 Residual nitrate before treatment application (initial) and after four consecutive years of treatment application (three sludge rates, inorganic fertilizer and control)..........................................................198

Figure 5.6 Initial soil profile total P and after four consecutive years of treatment applications in a weeping lovegrass hay production trial. .................203

Figure 6.1 Concentration of nitrate in soil solution samples collected from wetting

front detectors installed at 0.30 m of a turfgrass sod (Pennisetum

clandestinum) trial for four sludge application rates (0 Mg ha

-1

, 8 Mg ha

-1

,

33 Mg ha

-1

, and 100 Mg ha

-1

) during (a) year 2005 and (b) 2006. ......217

Figure 6.2 Soil profile (a) total N (b) nitrate (c) ammonium (d) total P (e) Bray-1 extractable P, and (f) electrical conductivity (ECe) as affected by two consecutive years of sludge application at five rates (0, 8, 33, 67, and

18

100 Mg ha

-1

) in a turfgrass sod (Pennisetum clandestinum) field trial, sampled before treatment application in 2005 (initial) and after two sod harvests in 2006. ..............................................................................223

Figure 6.3 Soil profile (a) total P (b) Bray-1 extractable P as affected by two consecutive years of sludge application at five rates (0, 8, 33, 67, and

100 Mg ha

-1

) in a turfgrass sod (Pennisetum clandestinum) field trial, sampled before treatment application in 2005 (initial) and after two sod harvests in 2006. ..............................................................................226

Figure 6.4 Electrical conductivity of soil solution samples collected from wetting front detectors installed at 0.30 m of a turfgrass sod (Pennisetum

clandestinum) trial for four sludge application rates (0 Mg ha

-1

, 8 Mg ha

-1

, 33 Mg ha

-1

, and 100 Mg ha

-1

) during (a) year 2004/05 and (b)

2005/06 growing seasons.................................................................233

Figure 6.5 Soil profile electrical conductivity as affected by two consecutive years of sludge application at five rates (0, 8, 33, 67, and 100 Mg ha

-1

) in a turfgrass sod (Pennisetum clandestinum) field trial, sampled before treatment application in 2004/05 (initial) and after two sod harvests in

2005/06.............................................................................................234

Figure 7.1 Simulated (solid lines) and measure values (symbols with standard

deviation) from top to bottom of leaf area index, aboveground biomass

(TDM), and aboveground biomass N uptake for the 16 Mg ha

-1

sludge

treatment..........................................................................................243

19

Figure 7.2 Simulated (solid lines) and measure values (symbols) of leaf area index (a), aboveground biomass (TDM), and aboveground biomass N uptake (c) for the 8 Mg ha

-1

per annum sludge treated dryland maize during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 study period. ....................................247

Figure 7.3 Simulated (solid lines) and measure values (symbols) of leaf area index (a), aboveground biomass (TDM), and aboveground biomass N uptake (c) for the 8 Mg ha

-1

per annum sludge treated irrigated maize(1)-oat(2) rotation during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 study period.

.........................................................................................................248

Figure 7.4 Simulated (solid lines) and measure values (symbols) of leaf area index (a), aboveground biomass (TDM), and aboveground biomass N uptake (c) for the 16 Mg ha

-1

per annum sludge treated irrigated maize(1)-oat(2) rotation during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 study period.

.........................................................................................................249

Figure 7.5 Simulated (solid lines) and measured values (symbols with standard deviation) of weeping lovegrass leaf area index (a), aboveground biomass (b), and aboveground biomass N uptake (c) for the control treatment (0 nutrients applied) during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 study period (without updating soil water). .................................................253

Figure 7.6 Simulated (solid lines) and measured values (symbols with standard deviation) of weeping lovegrass leaf area index (a), aboveground biomass (b), and aboveground biomass N uptake (c) for the 8 Mg ha

-1

20

yr

-1

sludge treatment during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 study period

(without updating soil water). ............................................................254

Figure 7.7 Simulated (solid lines) and measured values (symbols with standard deviation) of weeping lovegrass leaf area index (a), aboveground biomass (b), and aboveground biomass N uptake (c) for the 16 Mg ha

-1 yr

-1

sludge treatment during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 study period

(without updating soil water). ............................................................255

Figure 7.8 Simulated (solid lines) and measured values (symbols with standard deviation) of weeping lovegrass leaf area index (a), aboveground biomass (b), and aboveground biomass N uptake (c) for the control treatment (0 nutrients applied) during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 study period (without updating soil water). .................................................256

Figure 7.9 Simulated (solid lines) and measured values (symbols with standard deviation) of weeping lovegrass leaf area index (a), aboveground biomass (b), and aboveground biomass N uptake (c) for the 8 Mg ha

-1 yr

-1

sludge treatment during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 study period

(without updating soil water). ............................................................257

Figure 7.10 Simulated (solid lines) and measured values (symbols with standard deviation) of weeping lovegrass leaf area index (a), aboveground biomass (b), and aboveground biomass N uptake (c) for the 16 Mg ha

-1 yr

-1

sludge treatment during the 2004/05 to 2007/08 study period

(without updating soil water). ............................................................258

21

Fe

FeO

Hg

LAI

MAE

M1-P

M3-P

N

P

Al

As

Cd

Cr

Cu

CFU

ERWAT

EU

Ni

NO

3

NH

4

Pb

PFU r

2

Se

US EPA

WUE

Zn

LIST OF ACRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS

Aluminium

Arsenic

Cadmium

Chromium

Copper colony forming units

East Rand Water Care Works

European Union

Iron

Iron oxide

Mercury

Leaf area index (m

2

m

-2

)

Mean absolute error

Mehlick-1 extractable phosphorus

Mehlick-3 extractable phosphorus

Nitrogen

Phosphorus

Nickel

Nitrate

Ammonium

Lead plaque-forming units

Coefficient of determination

Selenium

United States Environmental Protection Agency

Water use efficiency (kg ha

-1

mm

-1

)

Zinc

22

ABSTRACT

Municipal sewage sludge is used as source of plant nutrients world wide for agriculture. However, many countries do not make full use of this opportunity. A lack of local knowledge about the benefits and disadvantages of sludge contributes to this low utilisation. For instance, only 28% of the sludge produced in South Africa is beneficially utilized on agricultural lands. The overall objectives of this study were 1) to determine responsible sludge loading rates for a range of cropping systems 2) to investigate the agronomic benefits and sustainability of using municipal sludge according to crop N demand, and 3) to develop a tool to enable extrapolation of these results to other regions (soils, climates) and other cropping systems. Field experiments were conducted on a wide range of cropping systems including dryland maize, irrigated maize-oat rotation, dryland pasture, and turfgrass sod production. An 8 Mg ha

-1

control (South African old annual upper limit norm) was compared with sludge rates of 0, 4, and 16 Mg ha

-1 for the agronomic crops and dryland pasture. Under the turfgrass sod production, the aim was to export large volumes of sludge with the sod without compromising the environment. Therefore, an 8 Mg ha

-1 control treatment was compared with sludge rates of 33, 67, and 100 Mg ha

-1

which are equivalent to depths of 5, 10, and 15 mm sludge, respectively. Doubling of the old annual upper limit significantly increased grain and forage yield of both the dryland maize and the irrigated maize-oat rotation. This rate also improved weeping lovegrass hay yield, water use efficiency and crude protein content. Residual nitrate in the soil profile after harvest, and solution samples collected from wetting front detectors were

23

used as indicators of groundwater pollution through nitrate leaching in the medium term. For the irrigated maize-oat rotation and dryland pasture, a low leaching risk was indicated even at high sludge loading rates of 16 Mg ha

-1

in this clay loam soil. In contrast, residual nitrate for similar sludge rates under dryland maize cropping did reveal the potential for pollution through leaching. Sludge loading at all rates resulted in the accumulation of total P and loading rates of 16

Mg ha

-1

increased Bray-1P in all agronomic and pasture cropping systems. In the case of turfgrass for sod production, sludge loading rates up to 67 Mg ha

-1 significantly improved turfgrass establishment rate and colour. The ability of sods to remain intact during handling and transportation improved as the sludge loading rate increased to 33 Mg ha

-1

, but deteriorated at higher rates. A sludge loading rate of 100 Mg ha

-1 was needed to eliminate soil loss at harvest, but this rate was associated with unacceptably high N leaching losses and poor sod strength. The variation in sludge quality, crop nutrient removal across a range of cropping systems, and seasons indicates that a dynamic, mechanistic decision support tool is needed to estimate responsible sludge loading rates. A mechanistic N module was adapted and incorporated into an existing soil water balance/crop growth model (SWB). The model was calibrated with statistically acceptable accuracy for dryland maize, irrigated maize-oat rotation, and dryland pasture. The model was tested against independent data sets and was able to predict the measured variables of interest with acceptable accuracy for dryland maize, irrigated maize and oats. For dryland pasture, the model predicted similar variables of interest with lower accuracy for medium-term simulations, but this

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improved with updating the profile water content after every hay cut. The ideal sludge loading rate to satisfy crop N demand is dynamic and should be adjusted according to cropping systems, seasonal rainfall variability, sludge N concentration, and sludge application strategy (N or P based). The ultimate cumulative sludge loading of an area will depend on the accumulation of total and

Bray-1P, and the risk this poses for pollution, as long as the risk from other pollutants remains minimal. The SWB model shows promise as a decision support tool for sludge management in agricultural lands.

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