In the Mediterranean region, difficult climate conditions and inadequate land management have led to a reduction of the organic matter content of soils. As a solution, municipal solid waste (MSW) compost and sewage (S) sludge were investigated for their effectiveness in maintaining soil fertility. Clayey-loamy soil was amended with 0, 40, and 80 t ha−1 of MSW compost or S sludge and cultivated with Triticum durum. Soil was sampled 15 and 70 days after sowing, and the activities of arylsulphatase, phosphatase, dehydrogenase (DH), β-glucosidase (β-GLU), urease, and catalase (CAT) were assayed. The wheat was harvested after 68 days, then soil properties as well as plant growth and K+ and Na+ contents were determined.
Almost all soil enzymatic activities were significantly (P < 0.01) affected by amendment dose, sampling time, and their interaction. At 15 days, MSW compost had a moderate effect on DH, β-GLU, and CAT activities under both applied doses. A significant increase of all the measured activities was observed after 70 days at either 40 t ha−1 or 80 t ha−1 (ranged between 16%-160% and 10%-81%, respectively), likely providing a long-term nutrient release. The activities of arylsulphatase, phosphatase, DH, CAT, and β-GLU (only with the lower dose) were strongly enhanced at 15 days after S sludge treatment. After 70 days, an increase of the enzymatic activities occurred with S sludge, although its beneficial effect was reduced mainly at 80 t ha−1 presumably because of the presence of micropollutants in the sludge. Plant growth was significantly improved by 40 and 80 t ha−1 of compost (93% and 126%, respectively); however, less impact was observed with S sludge. Overall, the results suggest that addition of MSW compost could enhance the fertility of degraded soils and promote plant growth.