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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 29 No. 4, p. 1351-1355
    Received: Mar 15, 1999

    * Corresponding author(s): michael.robinson@forestresearch.co.nz
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Volatilization of Nitrogen from Dewatered Biosolids

  1. M. B. Robinson * and
  2. P. J. Polglase
  1. Forest Research, Sala Street, Private Bag 3020, Rotorua, New Zealand.



Volatilization of N from biosolids applied to land lessens the risk of ground water contamination and reduces the amount available for plant uptake. This study determined rates of volatilization of NH+4−N from biosolids after surface-application. Biosolids from three sewage treatment plants (Cronulla, Liverpool, and Quakers Hill) in Sydney, Australia, were applied under controlled conditions to exclude leaching and plant uptake, and volatilization was calculated using a mass balance approach. Application rates supplied 100 to 168 g m−2 of total N including 20 to 67 g m−2 of NH+4-N. Most loss of N occurred within 1 wk of application; within 3 wk 71 to 81% of the NH+4−N applied had been lost. Subsequent changes in NH+4−N were small and there was little loss of organic N. The rapidity and magnitude of loss in both NH+4−N and total N suggests that N was primarily lost by volatilization, and that denitrification losses, involving slower biological processes, were minimal. Amounts of NH+4−N volatilized were proportional to amounts applied. Loss of applied NH+4−N did not increase with regular re-wetting, although loss of total N was increased, suggesting mineralization of organic N followed by gaseous loss. Volatilization, an important pathway for loss of N applied in biosolids, needs to be considered when calculating rates of biosolids application to protect ground water while providing nutritional benefit.

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