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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 25 No. 2, p. 355-362
    Received: Apr 21, 1995

    * Corresponding author(s): heckman@aesop.rutgers.edu
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Chemical Composition of Municipal Leaf Waste and Hand-Collected Urban Leaf Litter

  1. J. R. Heckman * and
  2. D. Kluchinski
  1. Plant Science Dep., Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick, NJ 08903;
    Rutgers Coop. Ext. of Mercer County, 930 Spruce St, Trenton, NJ 08648-4584.



Municipal leaf waste delivered to New Jersey farms was sampled to evaluate its chemical composition and suitability for land application. Freshly fallen leaf litter samples were also collected and analyzed from seven different urban landscape tree species. Municipal leaf waste data from 100 samples in this study was summarized using frequency distributions to characterize its variability in composition. The chemical composition of municipal leaf waste was found to be quite variable. The minimum-maximum and median values were as follows: (g kg−1) C, 363 to 516, 480; N, 6.6 to 16.2, 9.4; P, 0.2 to 2.9, 1.0; K, 0.9 to 8.8, 3.6; Ca 1.3 to 30.4, 17.3; Mg, 0.2 to 4.6, 2.4; S, 0.1 to 2.1, 1.1; (mg kg−1) B, 7 to 72, 38; Fe, 46 to 9800, 733; Al, 58 to 10554, 602; Mn, 19 to 1845, 406; Zn, 22 to 392, 67; Na, 36 to 325, 90; Cl, 68 to 3995, 1083; Cu, 2.8 to 31.5, 8.1; Co, 0.9 to 10.9, 2.7; Cd, 0.1 to 6.8, 1.3; Pb, 3 to 400, 18; Ni, 1 to 58, 5; Cr, 0.9 to 35.1, 6.6; Ba, 4.2 to 142.0, 49.4. Although municipal leaf waste contains significant amounts of valuable plant nutrients, the high C/N ratio (range: 26.8–71.8; median: 48.5) suggests that heavy applications are likely to cause immobilization of available soil N. Concentrations of Fe, Al, Pb, and Cd were generally higher and more variable in municipal leaf waste than in hand-collected leaf litter. This suggests that contamination with urban soil during collection contributes to elevated Pb and Cd concentrations in municipal leaf waste. Given careful attention to N-fertilizer practice, municipal leaf waste is a suitable material for application to farm land.

Research supported by the New Jersey Agric. Exp. Stn. Project D-15 110-7-95.

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