Plant and Soil

, Volume 418, Issue 1–2, pp 307–317 | Cite as

Evaluation of phosphorus in thermally converted sewage sludge: P pools and availability to wheat

  • Jessica E. Mackay
  • Timothy R. Cavagnaro
  • Iver Jakobsen
  • Lynne M. Macdonald
  • Mette Grønlund
  • Tobias P. Thomsen
  • Dorette S. Müller-Stöver
Regular Article



Dried sewage sludge (SS) and the by-products of four SS thermal conversion processes (pyrolysis, incineration and two types of gasification) were investigated for phosphorus (P) availability.


A sequential extraction was used to determine the distribution of P among different P pools. After mixing materials with soil, availability of the P was determined with soil P extractions and in a growth experiment with wheat.


Thermally converted SS contained a greater proportion of P within recalcitrant pools than dried SS. Despite having very different P pool distributions, the incinerated and dried SS provided similar amounts of P to plants. Plant P supply from dried and incinerated SS was lower than the comparable soluble P treatment (50 mg P kg−1), but higher than a soluble treatment at a lower rate (20 mg P kg−1). Plant P uptake in gasified and pyrolysed treatments was only marginally greater than uptake in a control (no P) treatment. Plant P uptake correlated most closely with diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT) P analysis of soil-material mixes. Phosphorus availability in the dried and incinerated SS treatments increased over time.


We propose that the dried and incinerated SS have potential as slow release P fertilisers in low pH soils.


Biochar Bioash Sequential phosphorus extraction Diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT) Wheat Sewage sludge 

Supplementary material

11104_2017_3298_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (259 kb)
(PDF 258 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Waite Research Institute and School of Agriculture, Food and WineUniversity of AdelaideGlen OsmondAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Plant and Soil ScienceUniversity of CopenhagenFrederiksbergDenmark
  3. 3.CSIRO Agriculture and FoodGlen OsmondAustralia
  4. 4.Department of Chemical and Biochemical EngineeringTechnical University of DenmarkRoskildeDenmark

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