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«Dimambro ME, Lillywhite RD & Rahn CR Warwick HRI, University of Warwick, Wellesbourne, Warwick, CV35 9EF Corresponding author: ...»

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In addition to available nitrogen, compost application weights and nutrients varied (see Table 4.21). For example, in the 250 kg N treatment 44 t ha-1 of composts B and G was applied, compared to 32 t ha-1 (compost F), and 28 t ha-1 (composts A and J).

Pre planting soil mineral N levels were approximately 50 kg ha-1 in the 0-60 cm level. Two months later just before top dressing, levels had risen to 150 kg ha-1. This amount would normally be sufficient for a barley crop, and is indicated by the fairly flat fertiliser nitrogen response curve. This large quantity of available N may have masked any fertilising benefits of the composts.

4.3 Potentially toxic elements in soil and plant

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At both pre-compost incorporation and 52 days post compost incorporation, concentrations of PTEs in the field soils were consistently lower than the maximum permissible levels stated in the Code of Good Agricultural Practice (MAFF 1998). There were no significant differences between the levels of PTE in the different compost treatments 57 days after incorporation and there was no significant difference between the two sampling dates. This suggests that no leaching of PTEs from the incorporated composts occurred.

A comparison of the results from the 9th March (day 0) and 8th August (day 157) showed very little difference. Levels of PTEs in the soil remained lower than the permissible levels in soil from the Code of Good Agricultural Practice on both dates. This is further evidence that no leaching of PTEs from the composts had occurred. Pinamonti & Zorzi (1996) did observe an increase in soil PTE content when used as a mulch in orchards and vineyards although their field trials extended for more than five years. We would expect some leaching of PTEs from our composts to occur during the winter months.

A comparison of the treatments post harvest results showed that levels of lead and nickel were higher, but not significantly so where compost G had been incorporated.

In UK agriculture, maximum permissible PTE loading is based on concentrations in the soil.

However, when composts are incorporated into the soil it is not always easy to calculate what the final soil concentration will be. Limiting PTE inputs from composted BMW in the UK would be easier to regulate by establishing maximum application rates per dry weight compost, rather than on the concentration of metals in the soil. Even after 10 years of compost application at the current rate, PTE levels in the soil would still be well below the GAP limits.

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The lead concentration in the barley grain ranged from 0.04 to 0.14 mg kg-1, which is lower than the 0.2 mg kg-1 European Commission regulation (EC 466/2001) limit for lead in cereal.

The cadmium concentration in the barley grain was consistently low, ranging from 0.02 to

0.03 mg kg-1, as compared to the European Commission regulation EC 466/2001 (CEC 2001) limit for cadmium in cereal grain which is 0.1 mg kg-1.

Copper and zinc levels in the barley grain were highest in the three mixed MSW compost G treatments, with 15% more copper and 30% more zinc in compost G grain than in FERT 0 grain. The application of MSW composts in agriculture has been found to increase the PTE content of a number of plant parts in a number of species. For example, MSW compost increased copper and zinc content in corn above ground tissues (Paino et al 1996). Moreover, vines grown in soil amended with mixed MSW compost for six years accumulated cadmium, chromium, lead and nickel in tissues and musts (Pinamonti et al 1999). Apple leaves and fruits were found to accumulate cadmium, chromium, lead and nickel when trees were treated with mixed MSW compost (Pinamonti et al 1997). These data show that when compost containing high levels of PTEs is applied to the soil, the PTEs are taken up by the crop.

4.4 Field trial summary Effect of compost treatment on plant establishment Plant establishment was as good as or better than the control with composts A, F and J. In contrast, composts B and G reduced plant establishment and early growth in comparison to the control.

Effect of compost treatment on yield Three composts, A, F and J, increased barley yield when compared to the control by 2%, 21% and 5% respectively. These composts can be recommended for use in agriculture as a soil conditioners. Two composts, B and G, reduced barley yield when compared to the control by 14% and 33% respectively. In the case of compost G, we suggest that the reduced yield can be attributed to the composts containing higher sodium and PTE levels than the other four source segregated composts.

Incorporating the composts immobilised soil mineral nitrogen. However, except for compost G, this could be overcome by applying 125 kg N ha-1 as ammonia nitrate.

Effect of compost treatment on grain There was little or no effect on PTEs in the barley grain from the composts. Levels of lead and cadmium were below the European Commission limits for PTEs in cereal grains. Levels of copper and zinc were highest in grain from compost treatment G.

Effect of compost treatment on soil The application of compost increased nitrogen, carbon, and organic matter in the soil. Application of the source segregated composts did not significantly increase soil PTEs. The mixed MSW compost increased soil lead concentration. Even if these composts were applied annually for 10 years at the rates used in this study, soil PTE levels would still be well below the recommended UK limits.


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