Soil Science Society of America

Soil carbon sequestration resulting from long-term application of biosolids for land reclamation

Investigations on the impact of application of biosolids for land reclamation on C sequestration in soil were conducted at Fulton County, Illinois, where 41 fields (3.6–66 ha) received biosolids at a cumulative loading rate from 455 to 1654 dry Mg ha–1 for 8 to 23 yr in rotation from 1972 to 2004. The fields were cropped with corn, wheat, and sorghum and also with soybean and grass or fallowed. Soil organic carbon (SOC) increased rapidly with the application of biosolids, whereas it fluctuated slightly in fertilizer controls. The peak SOC in the 0- to 15-cm depth of biosolids-amended fields ranged from 4 to 7% and was greater at higher rates of biosolids. In fields where biosolids application ceased for 22 yr, SOC was still much higher than the initial levels. Over the 34-yr reclamation, the mean net soil C sequestration was 1.73 (0.54–3.05) Mg C ha–1 yr–1 in biosolids-amended fields as compared with –0.07 to 0.17 Mg C ha–1 yr–1 in fertilizer controls, demonstrating a high potential of soil C sequestration by the land application of biosolids. Soil C sequestration was significantly correlated with the biosolids application rate, and the equation can be expressed as y = 0.064x – 0.11, in which y is the annual net soil C sequestration (Mg C ha–1 yr–1), and x is annual biosolids application in dry weight (Mg ha–1 yr–1). Our results indicate that biosolids applications can turn Midwest Corn Belt soils from current C-neutral to C-sink. A method for calculating SOC stock under conditions in which surface soil layer depth and mass changes is also described.

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