Repeated compost application effects on phosphorus runoff in the Virginia Piedmont

John T. Spargo, Gregory K. Evanylo, Marcus M. Alley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Increasing amounts of animal and municipal wastes are being composted before land application to improve handling and spreading characteristics, and to reduce odor and disease incidence. Repeated applications of composted biosolids and manure to cropland may increase the risk for P enrichment of agricultural runoff. We conducted field research in 2003 and 2004 on a Fauquier silty clay loam (Ultic Hapludalfs) to compare the effects of annual (since 1999) applications of composted and uncomposted organic residuals on P runoff characteristics. Biosolids compost (BSC), poultry litter-yard waste compost (PLC), and uncomposted poultry litter (PL) were applied based on estimated plant-available N. A commercial fertilizer treatment (CF) and an unamended control treatment (CTL) were also included. Corn (Zea mays L.) and a cereal rye (Secale cereal L.) cover crop were planted each year. We applied simulated rainfall in fall 2004 and analyzed runoff for dissolved reactive P (DRP), total dissolved P (TDP), total P (TP), total organic C (TOC), and total suspended solids (TSS). End of season soil samples were analyzed for Mehlich-3 P (M3P), EPA 3050 P (3050P), water soluble P (WSP), degree of P saturation (DPS), soil C, and bulk density. Compost treatments significantly increased soil C, decreased bulk density, and increased M3P, 3050P, WSP, and DPS. The concentration of DRP, TDP, and TP in runoff was highest in compost treatments, but the mass of DRP and TDP was not different among treatments because infiltration was higher and runoff lower in compost-amended soil. Improved soil physical properties associated with poultry litter-yard waste compost application decreased loss of TP and TSS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2342-2351
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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