Agronomy for Sustainable Development

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 539–549 | Cite as

A new sludge-derived organo-mineral fertilizer gives similar crop yields as conventional fertilizers

  • Lynda K. Deeks
  • Keith Chaney
  • Charles Murray
  • Ruben Sakrabani
  • Sidath Gedara
  • Minh S. Le
  • Sean Tyrrel
  • Mark Pawlett
  • Robert Read
  • Grace H Smith
Research Article

Abstract

Sewage sludge, a waste material commonly known as biosolids, has good potential as a valuable agricultural resource, providing that its nutrient imbalances could be overcome. Sewage sludge is rich in phosphorus but low in nitrogen and potassium. Technology exists to supplement sewage sludge with mineral fertilizers, such as urea and muriate of potash as sources of nitrogen and potassium, respectively, to produce an organo-mineral fertilizer with balanced crop nutrient requirements. Here, an experimental plot trial set up in 2008 was established at Broxton, Cheshire, UK, to compare crop yield response for typical crop varieties. Crops included wheat, oilseed rape, barley, beans and forage maize, treated with conventional fertilizer and organo-mineral fertilizer. The organo-mineral fertilizer is a nutrient-balanced sludge-based product produced by drying digested sewage sludge cake at 80 °C in a tumbling evaporator, which produces sludge granules of 3–6 mm in diameter. Analysis was carried out on soil NPK and crop yield. N use efficiency was measured to assess N uptake. Results show that there is no significant difference in crop yield between treatments over the three trial years, with the exception of one crop. This finding demonstrates that the new organo-fertilizer is as efficient as conventional fertilizers. Moreover, levels of heavy metal in soil did not exceed permissible levels. The novelty of this research lies in the fact that it is the first field scale trial of a modified sewage sludge product that has the potential to transform a hitherto waste product into a practical fertilizer product. We conclude that the organo-mineral fertilizer is a promising alternative product for sustainable agriculture.

Keywords

Organo-mineral fertilizer Conventional fertilizer Biosolids Crop yield Nutrients 

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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lynda K. Deeks
    • 1
  • Keith Chaney
    • 2
  • Charles Murray
    • 2
  • Ruben Sakrabani
    • 1
  • Sidath Gedara
    • 3
  • Minh S. Le
    • 3
  • Sean Tyrrel
    • 1
  • Mark Pawlett
    • 1
  • Robert Read
    • 1
  • Grace H Smith
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science and TechnologyCranfield UniversityCranfieldUK
  2. 2.Harper Adams UniversityNewportUK
  3. 3.United Utilities Group PLCWarringtonUK

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