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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 30 No. 4, p. 1401-1410
    Received: Aug 1, 2000

    * Corresponding author(s): cpres@interchange.ubc.ca
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Decomposition and Nitrogen Mineralization from Biosolids and Other Organic Materials

  1. Douglas M. Rowella,
  2. Cindy E. Prescott *a and
  3. Caroline M. Prestonb
  1. a Dep. Forest Sciences, Univ. of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4 Canada
    b Canadian Forest Service, 506 West Burnside Road, Victoria, BC, V8Z 1M5 Canada


Biosolids are effective forest fertilizers. In order to facilitate their use it is important that one be able to predict the amount and rate of mineralization of nutrients, particularly nitrogen, and the relationship between substrate chemistry and N release. We examined the relationships between substrate quality and nitrogen release in a variety of organic materials. Rates of decomposition and net N mineralization from four biosolids, wheat straw, paper fines, and Douglas-fir [Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco] needle litter were measured during 391-d incubations in a greenhouse, and at two field sites in wet coastal and dry interior forests. Decomposition rates were best predicted by a model incorporating the ratio of carbon to organic matter. The decomposition model extrapolated well to the field when site-specific correction factors were applied. There was a weak relationship between rates of decomposition and net N mineralization. Rates of net N mineralization were best predicted by a model incorporating the initial organic N concentration and the proportion of phenolic C determined from solid-state 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. The mineralization model extrapolated less well to the field, but the effect of substrate chemistry was still apparent. Among the four biosolids there was a strong correlation between organic N concentration and indices of protein determined from 13C NMR, suggesting that these protein indices may be useful for predicting N mineralization from biosolids. There was some evidence that the protein content and N mineralization in biosolids may be predictable from the sewage treatment process employed.

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Copyright © 2001. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.30:1401–1410.