July 27, 2015 Blog

Land Application of Biosolids

As the raw materials required to create chemical fertilizers are being depleted, our food supply demands that biosolids be recycled as biofertilizer to meet the needs of sustainable agriculture. This practice is supported by leading scientific organizations and their governments in the UK, the European Union and North America.

With decades of practice and exhaustive analysis, all have attested that the properly processed landing application of biosolids has had no negative affect on human health. And at a time when the increasing cost of chemical fertilizers is eroding margins required for the ongoing and successful production of crops, advanced biofertilizer products are able to replace at least some of the nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) potassium (K) and organic matter our soils require to remain healthy without incurring further fertilizer input costs.

There are other very important reasons for replacing at least a portion of chemical fertilizer demand with organically-based biofertilizers. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are not the only nutrients removed from the soil when plants are grown and harvested. The soil also supplies plants with a wide range of other nutrients, termed micronutrients, which are essential for soil health and plant growth. Intensive farming, over time, removes these essential micronutrients, thereby diminishing soil fertility. These micronutrients also end up in biosolids and hence land application of advanced biofertilizers derived from biosolids recycles these essential micronutrients to the soil. Chemical fertilizers do not.

It is also well established that replacement of chemical fertilizers with advanced biofertilizers substantially improves the organic qualities in soils, in a number of ways. Firstly, this enhanced organic content improves soil quality, including its structure, stability and surface strength. Soil porosity (i.e. how much water soil can hold) water infiltration, water retention and aeration are also improved.

Secondly, enhancement of soil surface strength protects against soil erosion. The higher the organic content of soil, the greater its capacity to retain water rather than loosing water through evaporation. Thus, while some have expressed concerns that land application of biosolids could enhance undesirable run-off of fertilizer nutrients to waterways, properly treated and applied biosolids have the opposite effect, in fact, because they promote water retention in soil, reduced nutrient run off, and water conservation. One can easily appreciate that this is particularly important during prolonged periods of drought, for example, as we are currently experiencing in California, Texas and other areas of the U.S. and western Canada.

There are also other, very important, environmental benefits in replacing synthetic chemical fertilizers with biofertilizers derived from biosolids. Chemical fertilizer production requires high energy consumption – particularly when compared proven, award-winning, low energy alternatives like the Lystek low temperature, low pressure thermal hydrolysis solution for conversion of Class B biosolids into exceptional quality, Class A biofertilizer products. Also, soils treated with biosolids-derived fertilizers have an elevated capacity to sequester and retain organic carbon as compared with soils receiving synthetic fertilizers. The combined effects of the lower energy inputs and enhanced carbon retention reduce the release of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere and reduce global warming.

In conclusion, land application of proven, properly treated biofertilizers, derived from biosolids, is something we all need to support. Scientific evidence has demonstrated these materials are safe for land application. These products are cheaper than synthetic fertilizers meaning cost savings for end users. This practice also recycles other micronutrients to the soil which are essential for plant growth and long term soil fertility. The organic content in biosolids greatly improves soil structure, water retention and reduces soil erosion. Finally, beneficial use of biofertilizers in place of historical, chemical products contributes to long-term sustainability of agriculture and the food supply, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and counteracts global warming. Simply put; it is the right thing to do.