, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 407-413
Date: 07 Jan 2010

Effects of land application of municipal biosolids on nitrogen-fixing bacteria in agricultural soil

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Effects of municipal biosolids on microbial N2-fixation in agricultural soil were assessed in a 3-month laboratory study which included analysis of metals, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products. Reference agricultural soil was amended with organic manure or municipal biosolids from a southern Ontario wastewater plant, with a biosolids-only treatment included to evaluate metabolic activity in this inoculum. Microbial N2-fixation in reference and manure-amended soils were similar (p = 0.144) over 3 months and lower than in biosolids-amended soil (p = 0.001); however, differences among soil treatments decreased over time, with no significant difference at test termination. In general, one-time application of biosolids caused short-term stimulation of N2-fixing activity with a return to reference conditions within 3 months. Although no residual effects were detected, biosolids introduced elevated levels of metals, pharmaceuticals, personal care products (particularly analgesics), and viable bacteria; long-term effects caused by repeat applications (as commonly practiced) requires further investigation.