Growth, grain yield and nitrogen use efficiency of Mediterranean wheat in soils amended with municipal sewage sludge
The application of sewage sludge (SS) to agricultural land can improve soil fertility and physical properties, and enhance crop production. This field study was conducted for two consecutive growing seasons to investigate the influence of SS application on winter wheat growth, grain yield, N accumulation, translocation and use, and on trace elements concentrations in soil and wheat plants under Mediterranean conditions. Treatments consisted of three rates of SS, i.e. 20, 40, and 60 Mg dry weight ha(-1) year(-1), one rate of inorganic fertilizer (IF, 120 kg N ha(-1) year(-1) plus 80 kg P2O5 ha(-1) year(-1)), and an unamended control. The application of SS resulted in tall plants with high early dry matter and N accumulation similar to or significantly higher than those obtained with IF. The lowest SS application rate resulted in grain yield similar to that obtained with IF. Nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) in SS treatments was mainly determined by uptake efficiency, which decreased with increasing SS application rate. Values of NUE and biomass production efficiency with the lowest SS rate were similar to those obtained with IF. SS application resulted in increased concentrations of total and DTPA-extractable trace elements in the soil after the first year, but concentrations were much lower than the regulation limits. Concentrations of Cu, Mn and Zn in wheat plants did not exceed those obtained with IF. Overall, SS could be considered for use as a fertilizer in wheat production systems in the area, serving also as an alternative method of SS disposal.