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Effects of composts on metallic and organic micropollutants availability in cultivated soil

S. Houot (1), Ph. Cambier (1,2), P. Benoit (1), G. Bodineau (1) M. Deschamps (1), A. Jaulin (2), C. Lhoutellier (3) et E. Barriuso (1)

Houot & al., 2009
Houot & al., (2009) Etude et Gestion des Sols, 16 (3-4) 255-274

Although organic waste product (OWPs) recycling in agriculture has many advantages, there brought also small concentrations of trace elements  (TE) and organic micropollutants (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAH). Their repeated applications could therefore disrupt the biological functioning of soils, due to the accumulation of low doses of pollutants. The objective of this work is to evaluate the medium-term impacts of the OWPs application on total concentrations of pollutants in soils but also on available fractions of contaminants potentially mobiles in soils leading to water contamination or potentially absorbed by plants or other living organisms in soils.

Main results

The medium term effects of repeated compost spreading on cultivated soil on the physico-chemical characteristics of soils have been studied in a field experiment started in 1998. After 9 years of experimentation, 5 spreading of composted sludge and municipal solid waste compost have modified physico-chemical characteristics of soil such as pH, organic matter contents… Total Cu and Zn concentrations in soil also significantly increased (figure).

Fig.1 Houot 2009

Figure : Trace elements concentrations in soils of the 4 treatments followed in the field experiment (average of 4 plots per treatment). The values labelled with an asterisk are significatively different at 5 % level).

Such evolution was not noticeable for the other TE and PAH. The PAH concentration in soil corresponded to usual concentrations found in cultivated soils. The particulate organic matter [50 μm -5 mm] increased in soil after compost application, mainly with composted sludge. The TE and PAH concentrations were larger in this particulate organic matter compared to total soil. The fraction of TE extractable with EDTA increased compared to control more than total TE in soil receiving composts. However the exchangeable fraction of TE (< 1 % total HM) was mitigated by the effect of compost on soil pH.


1) INRA, UMR ECOSYS (previously EGC, Environnement et Grandes Cultures) INRA, AgroParisTech, Université Paris-Saclay, 78850 Thiverval-Grignon, France

2) INRA, UMR ECOSYS (previously PESSAC), Route de Saint Cyr, 78026 Versailles Cedex, France

3 Veolia Environnement Recherche et Innovation, 78520 Limay, France