The effect of municipal sewage sludge on the content, use and mass ratios of some elements in spring barley biomass

Wojciech Kępka 1 , Jacek Antonkiewicz 1 , Florian Gambuś 1  and Robert Witkowicz 2
  • 1 University of Agriculture in Krakow, Faculty of Agriculture and Economics, Department of Agricultural and Environmental Chemistry, 31-120, Kraków, Poland
  • 2 University of Agriculture in Krakow, Faculty of Agriculture and Economics, Institute of Plant Production, 31-120, Kraków, Poland


Municipal sewage sludge contains considerable amounts of macro and microelements essential for plant nutrition. With decreasing use of natural and organic fertilizers, there is a need to search for alternative sources of organic matter (which is a substrate for humus reproduction). In a field experiment carried out on heavy soil with neutral reaction, the effect of single application of municipal sewage sludge in a dose of 5.34 Mg·ha−1 DM was compared to an equivalent dose of mineral fertilizers. The test plant was spring barley. After application of municipal sewage sludge, slight positive changes in the chemical properties of the soil were observed. The sewage sludge increased the yield of spring barley grain and straw by, respectively, 14 and 13% in relation to treatment with mineral fertilization. Spring barley fertilized with sewage sludge contained more elements than barley grown only on mineral fertilizers. It was shown that application of municipal sewage sludge to the soil had a significant effect on increase in nutrient uptake by spring barley. Fe was taken up in the highest amount, followed by Al and Mn, and Co was taken up in the smallest amounts. Utilization of Fe, Mn, Co and Al from sewage sludge by spring barley was at 6.0, 4.7, 0.7 and 0.7%, respectively of the amount applied to the soil with this waste. The mass ratios (Fe:Mn, Fe:Al, Mn:Co) analyzed in spring barley biomass were much wider in straw than in grain. In terms of grain feed value, Fe:Mn ratio in grain and straw was greater than optimum.

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