Effectiveness of recycled P products as P fertilizers, as evaluated in pot experiments

  • Ricardo CabezaEmail author
  • Bernd Steingrobe
  • Wilhelm Römer
  • Norbert Claassen
Original Article


World phosphorus (P) resources are limited and may be exhausted within 70–175 years. Therefore recycling of P from waste materials by chemical or thermal processes is important. This study evaluated the effectiveness of recycled P products from sewage sludge and animal wastes as P fertilizer. Four products were obtained from chemical processes, three magnesium-ammonium-phosphates (MAP) of different sewage treatment plants and a Ca phosphate precipitated from wastewater (Ca-P) and four from thermal processes, an alkali sinter phosphate (Sinter-P), a heavy metal depleted sewage sludge ash (Sl-ash), a cupola furnace slag made from sewage sludge (Cupola slag) and a meat-and-bone meal ash (MB meal ash). The effectiveness of these products as P fertilizers compared with triple superphosphate (TSP) and phosphate rock (PR) was determined in a 2-year pot experiment with maize (Zea mays L., cv. Atletico) in two soils with contrasting pH (pH(CaCl2) 4.7 and 6.6). The parameters used to evaluate the effectiveness were P uptake, P concentration in soil solution (CLi) and isotopically exchangeable P (IEP). MAP products were as effective as TSP in both soils, while Ca-P was only effective in the acid soil. Sinter-P was as effective as TSP in the acid soil, while Cupola slag was in the neutral soil. The products Sl-ash and MB meal ash were of low effectiveness and were comparable to PR. The effect of the fertilizers on IEP, but not on CLi, described their effectiveness. Recycled P products obtained by chemical processes, especially MAP, could be directly applied as P fertilizers, while products such as Sl-ash and MB meal ash are potential raw materials for P fertilizer production.


Phosphorus recycled products P fertilizer efficiency Isotopically exchangeable P P in soil solution Struvite Ash Slag Soil reaction 





Triple superphosphate (60 mg P kg−1)


Triple superphosphate (200 mg P kg−1)


Phosphate rock


Calcium phosphate


Magnesium-ammonium-phosphate (MAP) Seaborne


MAP Gifhorn


MAP Stuttgart


Sinter phosphate


Sewage sludge ash

MB meal ash

Meat and bone meal ash



We are grateful to the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for the Ph.D. scholarship granted to the corresponding author. This project was supported by the Federal Ministry of Environment and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany (Project code: 02WA0786). The authors gratefully acknowledge the Laboratory for Radio Isotopes (LARI) of George-August University, especially Prof. Dr. Polle, Gabriele Lehmann, Bernd Kopka and Thomas Klein.


  1. Adam C, Peplinski B, Michaelis M, Kley G, Simon F (2009a) Thermochemical treatment of sewage sludge ashes for phosphorus recovery. Waste Manage 29:1122–1128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adam C, Vogel C, Wellendorf S, Schick J, Kratz S, Schnug E (2009b) Phosphorus recovery by thermochemical treatment of sewage sludge ash—results of the European FP6-Project SUSAN. In: Ashley K, Mavinic D, Koch F (eds) International conference on nutrient recovery from wastewater streams. IWA Publishing, London, pp 417–430Google Scholar
  3. Adams F (1974) Soil solution. In: Carson EW (ed) The plant root and its environment. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, pp 441–481Google Scholar
  4. Alloush GA (2003) Dissolution and effectiveness of phosphate rock in acidic soil amended with cattle manure. Plant Soil 251:37–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Balmer P (2004) Phosphorus recovery—an overview of potentials and possibilities. Water Sci Technol 49:185–190PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Barrow NJ (1985) Comparing the effectiveness of fertilizers. Fertilizer Res 8:85–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barrow NJ, Shaw TC (1975) The slow reactions between soil and anions: 3. The effects of time temperature on the decrease in isotopically exchangeable phosphate. Soil Sci 119:190–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bauer PJ, Szogi AA, Vanotti MB (2007) Agronomic effectiveness of calcium phosphate recovered from liquid swine manure. Agron J 99:1352–1356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bolland M, Bowden J (1982) Long-term availability of phosphorus from calcined rock phosphate compared with superphosphate. Aust J Agric Res 33:1061–1071CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Claassen N, Steingrobe B (1999) Mechanistic simulation models for a better understanding of nutrient uptake from soil. In: Rengel Z (ed) Mineral nutrition of crops: fundamental mechanisms and implications. CRC Press, New York, pp 327–367Google Scholar
  11. Cordell D, Drangert JO, White S (2009) The story of phosphorus: global food security and food for thought. Global Environmental Change 19:292–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Day PR (1965) Particle fractionation and particle-size analysis. In: Black CA (ed) Methods of soil analysis. Part 1, Agronomy. Madison, pp 545–567Google Scholar
  13. Dentel SK (2004) Contaminants in sludge: implications for management policies and land application. Water Sci Technol 49:21–29PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Ehbrecht A, Patzig D, Schönauer S, Schwotzer M, Schuhmann R (2009) Crystallisation of calcium phosphate from sewage: efficiency of batch mode technology and quality of the generated products. In: Ashley K, Mavinic D, Koch F (eds) International conference on nutrient recovery from wastewater streams. IWA Publishing, London, pp 521–530Google Scholar
  15. Günther L, Dockhorn T, Dichtl N, Müller J, Urban I, Phan L, Weichgrebe D, Rosenwinkel K, Bayerle N (2008) Technical and scientific monitoring of the large-scale seaborne technology at the WWTP Gifhorn. Water Pract Technol 3(1). doi: 10.2166/wpt.2008.006
  16. Hartmann G (1994) Late-medieval glass manufacture in the Eichsfeld region (Thuringia, Germany). Chemie Erde 54:103–128Google Scholar
  17. Hui-Zhen W, Ya-Jun Z, Cui-Min F, Ping X, Shao-Gui W (2009) Study on phosphorus recovery by calcium phosphate precipitation from wastewater treatment plants. In: Ashley K, Mavinic D, Koch F (eds) international conference on nutrient recovery from wastewater streams. IWA Publishing, London, pp 291–299Google Scholar
  18. Jakobsen P, Willett I (1986) Comparisons of the fertilizing and liming properties of lime-treated sewage-sludge with its incinerated ash. Fertilizer Res 9:187–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Johnston AE, Richards IR (2003) Effectiveness of different precipitated phosphates as phosphorus sources for plants. Soil Use Manag 19:45–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kern J, Heinzmann B, Markus B, Kaufmann A, Soethe N, Engels C (2008) Recycling and assessment of struvite phosphorus from sewage sludge. Agric Eng Int CIGR Ej. Manuscript number CE 12 01, vol X, Accessed Dec 2008
  21. Kirk GJ, Nye PH (1986) A simple-model for predicting the rates of dissolution of sparingly soluble calcium phosphates in soil. 2. Applications of the model. J Soil Sci 37:541–554CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Machold O (1962) Die Pflanzenaufnehmbarkeit des labilen Phosphats. Zeitschrift für Pflanzenernährung, Düngung, Bodenkunde 98:99–113Google Scholar
  23. Machold O (1963) Über die Bindungsform des “labilen” Phosphats im Boden. Zeitschrift für Pflanzenernährung, Düngung, Bodenkunde 103:132–138Google Scholar
  24. Massey MS, Davis JG, Ippolito JA, Sheffield RE (2009) Effectiveness of recovered magnesium phosphates as fertilizers in neutral and slightly akaline soils. Agron J 101:323–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Murphy J, Riley JP (1962) A modified single solution method for the determination of phosphate in natural waters. Anal Chim Acta 27:31–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nanzer S, Janousch M, Huthwelker T, Eggenberger U, Hermann L, Oberson A, Frossard E (2009) Phosphorus speciation of sewage sludge ashes and potential forfertilizer production. In: Ashley K, Mavinic D, Koch F (eds) International conference on nutrient recovery from wastewater streams. IWA Publishing, London, pp 609–614Google Scholar
  27. Nelson DW, Sommers LE (1982) Total carbon, organic carbon and organic matter. In: Page AL, Miller RH, Keeney DR (eds) Methods of soil analysis. Part 2. Chemical and microbiological properties. 2nd edn. Agronomy Monograph 9, ASA, SSSA, CSSA, Madison, WI, pp 539–580Google Scholar
  28. Ostmann H (1995) Bestimmung der Phosphate. In: VDLUFA (ed) Methodenbuch: band II.1. Die Untersuchung von Düngemitteln. VDLUFA, DarmstadtGoogle Scholar
  29. Owusu-Bennoah E, Zapata F, Fardeau J (2002) Comparison of greenhouse and 32P isotopic laboratory methods for evaluating the agronomic effectiveness of natural and modified rock phosphates in some acid soils of Ghana. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 63:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Petzet S, Cornel P (2009) Phosphorus removal and recovery from sewage sludge as calcium phosphate by addition of calcium silicate hydrate compounds. In: Ashley K, Mavinic D, Koch F (eds) International conference on nutrient recovery from wastewater streams. IWA Publishing, London, pp 301–315Google Scholar
  31. Phan L, Weichgrebe D, Urban I, Rosenwinkel K, Gunther L, Dockhorn T, Dichtl N, Muller J, Bayerle N (2009) Empirical evaluation of nutrient recovery using seaborne technology at the wastewater treatment plant Gifhorn. In: Ashley K, Mavinic D, Koch F (eds) International conference on nutrient recovery from wastewater streams. IWA Publishing, London, pp 567–577Google Scholar
  32. Plaza C, Sanz R, Clemente C, Fernandez J, Gonzalez R, Polo A, Colmenarejo M (2007) Greenhouse evaluation of struvite and sludges from municipal wastewater treatment works as phosphorus sources for plants. J Agric Food Chem 55:8206–8212PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Quinn GP, Keough MJ (2002) Experimental design and data analysis for biologists. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  34. Römer W (2006) Vergleichende Untersuchungen zur Pflanzenverfügbarkeit von Phosphat aus verschiedenen P-Recycling-Produkten im Keimpflanzenversuch. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci 169:826–832CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Scheffer F, Pajenkamp H (1952) Phosphatbestimmung in Pflanzenaschen nach der Molybdän-Vanadin-Methode. Zeitschrift für Pflanzenernährung, Düngung Bodenkunde 56:2–8Google Scholar
  36. Scheidig K, Schaaf M, Mallon J (2009) Profitable recovery of phosphorus from sewage sludge and meat & bone meal by the Mephrec process—a new means of thermal sludge and ash treatment. In: Ashley K, Mavinic D, Koch F (eds) International conference on nutrient recovery from wastewater streams. IWA Publishing, London, pp 563–566Google Scholar
  37. SCOPE (2003) Germany, Sweden: national objectives for P-recovery announced. SCOPE Newsletter 2Google Scholar
  38. Seaborne-EPM-AG (2010) Seaborne unwelttechnik. In:
  39. Smit AL, Bindraban PS, Schröder JJ, Conijn JG, van der Meer HG (2009) Phosphorus in agriculture: global resources, trends and developments. Plant Research International, WageningenGoogle Scholar
  40. Steen I (1998) Phosphorus availability in the 21st century: management of a non-renewable resource. Phosphorous and Potassium 217:25–31Google Scholar
  41. VTS (2010) VTS Koop Schiefer GmbH & Co. Thüringen KG, Unterloquitz. In:
  42. Weast R (1970) CRC handbook of chemistry and physics. CRC Press, ClevelandGoogle Scholar
  43. Weidelener A (2010) Phosphorrückgewinnung aus kommunalen Klärschlamm als Magnesium-Ammonium-Phosphat (MAP). Ph.D. Thesis, University of StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  44. Zhang FS, Yamasaki S, Nanzyo M (2002) Waste ashes for use in agricultural production. I. Liming effect, contents of plant nutrients and chemical characteristics of some metals. Sci Total Environ 284:215–225PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ricardo Cabeza
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Bernd Steingrobe
    • 2
  • Wilhelm Römer
    • 2
  • Norbert Claassen
    • 2
  1. 1.Departmento de Ingeniería y Suelos, Facultad de Ciencias AgronómicasUniversidad de ChileSantiagoChile
  2. 2.Department of Crop Sciences, Section of Plant Nutrition and Crop PhysiologyGeorg-August UniversityGöttingenGermany

Personalised recommendations