Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 349–358 | Cite as

Composted biosolids enhance fertility of a sandy loam soil under dairy pasture

  • T. W. Speir
  • J. Horswell
  • A. P. van Schaik
  • R. G. McLaren
  • G. Fietje
Original Paper


Field and pot trials were established to assess potential benefits and adverse effects of amending a sandy loam soil, under grazed ryegrass-clover pasture, with compost manufactured from wastewater biosolids, wood waste and green waste. Compost was applied to the field trial site annually for 4 years and the pot trials used soil from the field trial site each year after compost application. The pot trials demonstrated that yield of silver beet (Beta vulgaris L.) increased with increasing compost application rate and that plant metal uptake was (except for Zn) unrelated or inversely related to soil metal concentrations. In samples from the field trial, soil total C, N, P and Olsen P increased markedly with increasing compost application rate. Cation exchange capacity, exchangeable cations and total-extractable and EDTA-extractable metals (Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn) were also elevated, total Cu to the limit allowable in biosolids-amended soil. Soil basal respiration, microbial biomass C and anaerobically mineralisable N were significantly increased in the amended plots. Anaerobically mineralisable N was highly correlated with respiration (r =0.98, n =24) and only weakly related to microbial biomass C, probably indicating that a high proportion of the N mineralised was from the compost organic matter. Sulphatase and phosphatase activities increased, but not significantly, and there were no measurable effects on rhizobial numbers or on sensitive microbial biosensors (Rhizotox C and lux-marked Escherichia coli). Biosolids compost application enhanced soil fertility, productivity and microbial biomass and activity, with no apparent adverse effects attributable to heavy metals.


Biosolids compost Heavy metals Enzyme activities Microbial biomass Lux biosensors 



We thank the landowner, Ted Sims, for allowing the use of his property for this investigation and Glenn Cant for maintaining the trial and assisting with sampling. We acknowledge the technical assistance of Louise Duncan and Brian Daly, Landcare Research, and of Lynne Clucas, Lincoln University, and thank Spectrachem Analytical for XRF analyses of heavy metals. The pasture Cd analyses were carried out by Colin Gray, Lincoln University, and the pot trial was conducted by Elena Izaguirre, Living Earth Limited. This work was funded by the Foundation for Research, Science, and Technology.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. W. Speir
    • 1
  • J. Horswell
    • 1
  • A. P. van Schaik
    • 1
  • R. G. McLaren
    • 2
  • G. Fietje
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Environmental Science and Research LtdPoriruaNew Zealand
  2. 2.Soil, Plant and Ecological Sciences DivisionLincoln UniversityCanterburyNew Zealand
  3. 3.Living Earth LimitedAucklandNew Zealand

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