The aim of this study is the evaluation of the agronomic characteristics acquired by a phytotreated sludge coming from a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) located in Tuscany (central Italy). The chemical characterization showed values which are within the Italian legislation limits for mixed composts. From an agronomic point of view, the sludge did not present a level of phytotoxicity, as shown by the germination index (GI% = 77). Furthermore, pathogen compounds are inexistent (Escherichia coli <1,000 CFU/g). Different substrates (obtained by mixing the sludge with sandy agronomic soil – 0.5% w/w, 1% w/w, 2.5% w/w and 5% w/w) were prepared in order to evaluate the best mixture performance in terms of water retention capacity and plant growth. No significant differences were observed for all sludge mixtures. Different plants were tested in plots (Lepidium sativum, Cucumis sativus and Avena sativa). The best plant adaptation, measured as dry biomass production, was observed for Avena sativa. The results obtained underlined that the phytotreatment of sludge can bring about the transformation of sewage sludges into organic products that are reusable in agriculture, if previously mixed with other appropriate materials and taking into account their heavy metal content.
Keywords: bulk density, organic amendment, phytotreatment, sludge treatment wetland, water retention capacity