New Waves March 2009

Breaking news about water resources research and education in Texas

TWRI grant recipient integrates composted biosolids in low quality soil

By Caitlin Churchill

Ronnie Schnell, now earning his doctorate in agronomy from Texas A&M University, recently worked with his advising professors Dr. Donald Vietor and Dr. Clyde Munster to incorporate composted biosolids in low quality soils to enhance water conservation and provide organic carbon and nutrients that improve vegetation growth and limit sediment loss.

Schnell is a recipient of a 2007-08 Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) research grant. With the $5,000 grant, Schnell evaluated the interactions of soil, compost, and chemical amendments for contrasting soil types and deduced impacts on the fate and transport of nutrients during turfgrass establishment. Schnell's final results indicate that treatment of the chemical compound alum on composted biosolids before land application enables recycling of large, volume-based rates of composted biosolids for improved water capture and storage in soils during turfgrass establishment and maintenance on urban landscapes.

According to Schnell's final report, composted biosolids produced by Texas cities could be a valuable soil amendment for water conservation on drought-prone landscapes. Incorporation of composted biosolids could enhance water infiltration and storage and, therefore, turfgrass persistence. "Improving the ability of urban soils to capture and store water could reduce the amount of irrigation required," said Schnell.

Besides water conservation, Schnell said composted biosolids offer the additional benefits of protecting water quality and the environment. "Cycling of municipal biosolids through turfgrass sod, rather than disposal in landfills, saves taxpayer dollars and conserves valuable sources of carbon and nutrients in an environmentally friendly manner," he said.

After he completes his doctorate, Schnell said he intends to pursue a career in research and education at the university level. His current research interests are in environmental quality and nutrient and carbon cycling for sustainable agronomic cropping systems.

Research conducted by Schnell was funded by TWRI through the U.S. Geological Survey as part of the National Institutes for Water Research annual research program. TWRI is the designated institute for water resources research in Texas.

For more information on Schnell's research, visit the TWRI USGS Research Grants Web page.

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