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Book: Agricultural Utilization of Urban and Industrial By-Products
Published by: American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America




  1.  p. i-xvii
    ASA Special Publication 58.
    Agricultural Utilization of Urban and Industrial By-Products

    D.L. Karlen, R.J. Wright and W.O. Kemper (ed.)

    ISBN: 978-0-89118-324-2

    unlockOPEN ACCESS

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Front Matter


Technological advances in the twentieth century have mechanized and improved the efficiency of food and fiber production. As a result, people have been freed from the burden of producing these basic necessities and have congregated into cities, to form a more sophisticated society that has developed many goods to make life less burdensome and to enhance communication, movement and leisure activities.

The concentration of people into cities and the manufacturing of todays goods and development of new services have not only concentrated the production of wastes, but have created many new wastes from various energy production and manufacturing processes. Recent awareness that the burying of waste in traditional landfills can contaminate both air and water has required more carefully constructed and expensive landfills to reduce contamination of water and air around these landfills. The extra cost of modern landfills now makes land applications of many wastes an economically viable alternative. Many wastes also benefit crop production, by supplying essential plant nutrients and by adding organic matter to improve soil physical and biological conditions to enhance crop growth. Because of these beneficial aspects, these materials are often referred to as by-products rather than wastes. A negative aspect is that some by-products also contain elements that can be toxic if applied to soil in excess amounts.

The science of characterizing and managing urban and industrial byproducts when applied to soil was the subject of a symposium on this topic at the American Society of Agronomy Annual Meetings held in Cintinnati in 1993. This special publication constitutes the proceedings of that symposium. A total of fourteen chapters deal with topics ranging from the societal, political, and regulatory issues associated with land application to more technical issues such as the sometimes negative effects on soil moisture, salt levels, pH, and other beneficial effects the by-products may have on soil conditions that affect growth of crops.

This special publication provides a compilation of the benefits of applying these by products to agricultural land and the areas of concern and caution in their use. Through continued study on these topics, a more sustainable modern society will be developed.

CALVIN O. QUALSET, president

American Society of Agronomy


Crop Science Society of America

LARRY P. WILDING, president

Sol Science Society of America


America's cities, farms, and industries are generating in excess of 1 billion tons of by-products each year. Municipal biosolids (sewage sludge and solid wastes) and some industrial wates are generally placed in landfills, but landfill capacity is decreasing and disposal costs are rapidly increasing. Animal manure and industrial by-products such as fly and bottom ash from power plants are often stockpiled at the site of generation.

The accumulation of large amounts of municipal, animal, or industrial waste at production sites can result in degradation of soil, water, and air resources. The by-products themselves, their components, or their degradation products can cause odor problems, release gases into the atmosphere which can contribute to the “greenhouse” effect, or contaminate surface water and groundwater resources with nutrients, trace elements, and microorganisms.

Alternative uses have been found for a small fraction of these materials, but our urban areas have an urgent need for developing long-term environmentally safe methods for recycling and utilizing biosolids and industrial wastes. Fortunately, many of these by-products can have substantial value if they are viewed as a resource and properly used within the total agricultural industry. Methods to optimally integrate urban and industrial byproducts into agricultural management practices need to be developed in a manner that could enhance the environmental, economic, and social sustainability of agriculture and provide solutions to what is currently viewed as simply a by-product “disposal” problem.

The goal for this publication is to enhance public awareness of how agriculture (which encompasses the art and science of plant and animal production, provision of machinery and materials for that production; and processing, manufacture, and marketing of food, fiber, and other products useful for human activity), can help solve problems associated with the byproducts of our increasingly urban and industrial society. Information contained in these chapters was presented in part at a joint symposium entitled “Wastes as Resources” during the 1993 American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America Annual Meetings in Cincinnati, Ohio. The theme for those meetings was “Building Bridges,” and one goal was to share visions of how we (as model agronomists, crop scientists, and soil scientists) might use our knowledge and experience to address new challenges in a changing world.

Developing and encouraging the adoption of soil and crop management strategies that utilize urban and industrial by-products as resources rather than considering them wastes provides many opportunities for building bridges between agricultural and urban communities. However, as pointed out by a “farmer-rancher-veterinarian-County Commissioner” in Chapter 1, building these bridges requires credible scientific research on benefits, hazards, and management of these materials, coupled with the development of an informed base of support within the agricultural community. Regulatory and programmatic responsibilities of the USEPA and contributions of nonprofit organizations such as the Composting Council toward development of best management strategies for using urban and industrial by-products are discussed in Chapters 2 and 3. The “Farm Co-Composting Project,” initiated by the Rodale Research Center provides a specific example in Chapter 4 of the types of bridges that can and must be built between rural and urban partners.

Chapters 5 through 10 focus on properties and potential uses for industrial by-products associated with coal combustion. Basic mineralogy of these materials, their effect on soil physical and chemical properties, the ability to provide nutrients to horticultural and agronomic plants, and their potential environmental impact are reviewed and discussed by several authors.

The use of noncomposted organic materials including paper products, animal manures, and sawmill by-products is discussed in Chapters 11 to 13. Long-term effects of applying municipal sewage sludge to forest and other degraded soils is discussed in the final chapter.

As members of the Tri-Societies and general public, we are indebted to the authors whose work has previously established and continues to contribute to the scientific foundation on which these problem-solving bridges can be built. It is our hope that the information summarized in these chapters will stimulate additional efforts to develop partnerships between urban and rural communities. Economically and environmentally viable recycling across watershed or ecoregion boundaries, our industrial, agricultural, and urban by-products can truly become “resources” rather than “wastes.” We wish to thank the reviewers who contributed suggestions for improvement of the manuscripts, and the many people who stimulated discussion at the symposium. We also appreciate the excellent work of the ASA-CSSA-SSSA Headquarters staff provided to ensure a smooth and efficient publication process.

D.L. KARLEN, coeditor

USDA-ARS, National Soil Tilth Laboratory Ames, Iowa

R.J. WRIGHT, coeditor

USDA-ARS, Environmental Chemistry Laboratory Beltsville, Maryland

W.D. KEMPER, coeditor

USDA-ARS, National Program Staff Beltsville, Maryland


V. C. Baligar, Lead Scientist, USDA-ARS, Appalachian Soil and Water Conservation Research Laboratory, Beckley, WV 25802-0867

C. R. Berry, Emeritus Plant Pathologist (retired), USDA-Forest Service, Institute of Tree Root Biology, Athens, GA 30606

Jeffrey C. Burnham, President, BioCheck Laboratories, Inc., Toledo, OH 43614

E. C. Burt, USDA-ARS, National Soil Dynamics Laboratory, Auburn, AL 36831-0792

R. B. Clark, Research Plant Physiologist, USDA-ARS, Appalachian Soil and Water Conservation Research Laboratory, Beckley, WV 25802-0867

D. M. G. de Sousa, Research Chemist, EMBRAPA-CPAC, Planaltina, D.F., 73301-970 Brazil

J. H. Edwards, Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, National Soil Dynamics Laboratory, Auburn, AL 36831-3439

C. M. Feldhake, Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, Appalachian Soil and Water Conservation Research Laboratory, Beckley, WV 25802-0867

D. T. Hill, Agricultural Engineering Department, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36831

Gary W. Hyatt, Procter and Gamble Pharmaceuticals, Cincinnati, OH 45241

D. L. Karlen, USDA-ARS, National Soil Tilth Laboratory, Ames, IA 50011

W. D. Kemper, USDA-ARS, BARC-West, Beltsville, MD 20705

R. F. Korcak, Silviculturist, Research Leader, USDA-ARS, Fruit Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350

P. P. Kormanik, USDA-Forest Service, Institute of Tree Root Biology, Athens, GA 30602

Terry J. Logan, Professor of Soil Chemistry, School of Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210

D. H. Marx, Emeritus Scientist, USDA-Forest Service, Institute of Tree Root Biology, Athens, GA 30602

W. P. Miller, Department of Crop & Soil Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602

L. Darrell Norton, Research Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47906

Cary Oshins, Composting Specialist, Rodale Institute, Kutztown, PA 19530z

R. L. Raper, USDA-ARS, National Soil Dynamics Laboratory, Auburn, AL 36831

D. W. Reeves, Research Agronomist, USDA-ARS, National Soil Dynamics Laboratory, Auburn, AL 36831-3439

K. Dale Ritchey, Research Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, Appalachian Soil and Water Conservation Research Laboratory, Beckley, WV 25802-0867

Gerald E. Schuman, Research Leader/Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, High Plains Grasslands Research Station, Cheyenne, WY 82009

John R. Stulp, Colorado State Board of Agriculture, Prowers County, Lamar, CO 81052

A. A. Trotman, Department of Agriculture and Home Economics, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee Institute, AL 36088

John M. Walker, Physical Scientist, USEPA Municipal Technology Branch, Washington, DC 20460

R. H. Walker, Professor of Weed Science, Agronomy and Soils Department, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849-5412

T. R. Way, USDA-ARS, National Soil Dynamics Laboratory, Auburn, AL 36831-0792

R. R. Wendell, Research Affiliate, USDA-ARS, Appalachian Soil and Water Conservation Research Laboratory, Beckley, WV 25802-0867

R. J. Wright, USDA-ARS, Environmental Chemistry Laboratory, BARC-West, Beltsville, MD 20705

S. K. Zeto, Biologist, USDA-ARS, Appalachian Soil and Water Conservation Research Laboratory, Beckley, WV 25802-0867



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