Increasing phosphorus plant availability from P-rich ashes and biochars by acidification with sulfuric acid

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Biochars and ashes derived from thermal treatment of P-rich wastes could be used as bio-based fertilizers to improve P recycling. However, thermal treatments often result in low plant P availability. Acidification of these materials before soil application could potentially increase plant P availability. Based on the water-extractable P levels obtained in titration experiments, sulfuric acid concentrations between 2.5 M and 10 M were applied to digestate solids char and ash (DS-C, DS-A), poultry litter ash (PL-A), insect frass char (IF-C), sewage sludge char and ash (SS-C, SS-A) and meat and bone char (MB-C). Acidified and untreated materials were applied in a pot experiment with maize in 33P labeled soil to determine fertilizer P uptake. The acidification resulted in a significant increase in P solubility. The amount of acid required depended on the materials’ buffer capacity and P speciation. Based on XRD analysis, we assume that mainly Ca-associated P was solubilized. In the pot experiment, acidified materials outperformed untreated materials and the unfertilized control in terms of biomass and P uptake. The P recovery from the acidified materials ranked in the order DS-C > SS-A > PL-A > IF-C > DS-A > SS-C > MB-C. The acidification did not significantly decrease soil pH, nor was there an effect on plant heavy metal availability. In conclusion, acidification increased plant growth and P uptake without affecting plant heavy metal uptake and soil pH. Therefore, acidification to increase the P fertilizer value of ashes and chars is a promising approach to facilitate P recycling.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111489
JournalJournal of Environmental Chemical Engineering
Issue number6
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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© 2023 The Authors

    Research areas

  • Agronomic efficiency, Animal manure, Bio-based fertilizer, Digestate, Phosphorus recycling, Sewage sludge

ID: 379184716