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Noncomposted Municipal Solid Waste Byproduct Influences Soil and Plant Nutrients 5 Years After Soil Reclamation

Watts, Dexter B.1; Arriaga, Francisco J.1; Torbert, H. Allen1; Busby, Ryan R.2; Gebhart, Dick L.2

doi: 10.1097/SS.0b013e318268a246
Technical Article

Concerns for the mounting supply of municipal solid waste being generated combined with decreasing landfill space have compelled military installations to evaluate alternative methods for disposal. One approach to reduce landfilling is the use of a new garbage-processing technology that sterilizes and separates the waste into inorganic and organic components. Thus, a study was initiated to evaluate the effectiveness of using the organic component (Fluff) as a soil amendment for reclamation of disturbed US Army training land. The Fluff material was initially incorporated (10–20 cm) into a highly degraded sandy loam soil (fine-loamy, kaolinitic, thermic Typic Kandiudults) located in a borrow pit at Fort Benning Military Reservation, Georgia, in 2003. The Fluff was applied at rates of 0, 18, 36, 72, and 143 Mg ha−1, and the soil was seeded with native prairie grasses. Soil nutrient retention and plant uptake were evaluated to determine the soil-plant system’s sustainability after 5 years. An unseeded control was also evaluated as a comparison of natural recovery. Five years after reclamation, vegetation resulting from natural recovery in the unseeded control was sparse. Fluff addition increased pH, organic matter, and plant nutrient availability in the degraded soil, with the greatest improvements occurring at higher application rates. Soil productivity improvements resulted in greater plant biomass production. Generally, plant nutrient concentrations were not significantly impacted by Fluff addition. However, plant nutrient content was consistently higher with Fluff addition, which was attributed to increased biomass production. Plant nutrient uptakes of N, Ca, Mg, B, Mn, and Zn were within the reference range for grasses, whereas P and K concentrations were slightly deficient. An Fe and Cu concentration toxicity problem at the borrow site was alleviated with higher Fluff application rates, whereas the control and lower Fluff rates accumulated high levels of Fe and Cu within plant tissues. These results suggest that Fluff can be effectively used in land rehabilitation and revegetation practices to create a sustainable native grassland ecosystem.

1USDA-ARS National Soil Dynamics Laboratory, Auburn, AL.

2Ecological Processes Branch, US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, Champaign, IL.

Address for correspondence: Dexter B. Watts, PhD, USDA-ARS, National Soil Dynamics Laboratory, 411 S Donahue Dr, Auburn, AL 36832. E-mail:

Financial Disclosures/Conflicts of Interest: USDA-ARS and U.S. Army Engineering Appropriated Funds.

Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is solely for the purpose of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement by the US Department of Agriculture or the US Department of the Army.

Received February 6, 2012.

Accepted for publication June 27, 2012.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.