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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 27 No. 4, p. 789-794
    Received: Apr 29, 1997

    * Corresponding author(s): bpierce@lamar.colostate.edu
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Plant Biomass and Elemental Changes in Shrubland Forages following Biosolids Application

  1. B.L. Pierce *,
  2. E.F. Redente,
  3. K. A. Barbarick,
  4. R.B. Brobst and
  5. P. Hegeman
  1. Dep. of Soil and Crop Science, Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO 80523;
    Dep. of Rangeland Ecosystem Science, Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO 80523;
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 999 18th St., Denver, CO 80202;
    Colorado Dep. of Public Health and Environment, 4300 Cherry Creek Dr. S., Denver, CO 80222.



Land application of biosolids is a viable management practice for agriculture, but minimal information exists on beneficial uses for native rangeland. This study was conducted to determine the effect of surface-applied biosolids on the canopy cover, aboveground biomass, and nutrient status of native plant species in a sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) community in western Colorado. Biosolids were applied once in 1991 at nine rates consisting of 0, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40 Mg ha−1 to plots measuring 3320 m2. Biosolids application increased the biomass of perennial grasses up to 300% at 25 Mg ha−1 treatment rates in 1993. We also found 60 to 70% increases in plant tissue N concentrations in western wheatgrass (Agropyron smithii Rydb.), bluebunch wheatgrass [A. spicatum (Pursch) Scribn. & Smith], and Indian ricegrass [Oryzopsis hymenoides (R. & S.) Ricker]. The quality of grass forage was also improved through a change in the Cu/Mo ratios. Before biosolids application, the three grasses noted above had Cu/Mo ratios below 1.2/1, which is known to cause Mo-induced Cu deficiencies in cattle (Bovis abortus), sheep (Ovis aries), and some wild ruminants. Biosolids treatment increased the Cu/Mo ratio above 2/1 for western wheatgrass and bluebunch wheatgrass 1 yr after application at low rates and 2 yr after amendment at intermediate application rates. The Cu/Mo ratio of Indian ricegrass also increased above 2/1 2 yr after surface application at intermediate biosolids application rates. Forage quantity and nutritional value of some native grasses was improved for livestock and wildlife consumption with biosolids application.

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