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Agronomic and environmental aspects of irrigation with treated sewage effluent and phosphogypsum application on sugarcane production

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Julius Blum
Total Authors: 1
Document type: Doctoral Thesis
Press: Piracicaba.
Institution: Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz (ESALA/BC)
Defense date:
Examining board members:
Adolpho Jose Melfi; Cassio Hamilton Abreu Junior; Marcos Omir Marques; Takashi Muraoka; André Cesar Vitti
Advisor: Adolpho Jose Melfi

Utilization of treated sewage effluent (TSE) to crop irrigation is a form of recycling the nutrients and the water used by urban populations, therefore, important for the sustainable use of resources. Although it is a very ancient practice in the world, is incipient in Brazil, where research on the topic began around the year 2000. Despite of some positive results from its use, there are still some questions related to (i) balance of nutrients for fertilizer management aiming plant nutrition and environment safety, (ii) accumulation of sodium in the soil under normal irrigation and rainfall conditions and possible mitigation of this effect and (iii) the risk of accumulation of nitrogen in groundwater. To answer these questions, gypsum treatments were established in sugarcane crop previously irrigated with TSE, where were evaluated: (i) plant nutrition, (ii) supply and removal of nutrients, (iii) soil quality mainly regarding to sodium related properties and (iv) flow of solution and Nitrogen through the soil. After two years of application of gypsum and five consecutive years of irrigation with TSE the soil chemical properties, especially those related to soil acidity and basic cations were affected by irrigation, keeping the soil in conditions suitable for the plants development without the need for liming. The effects of gypsum on Ca, S and Na in the soil were more pronounced in the short term evaluation, and did not affect the physical properties of soil after two years of application. However, the high concentration of Na+ and its effect on physical properties of the soil proved to be naturally reversible in well-drained soil with a rainy season. Nitrogen, P, Ca and Mg had adequate concentrations in soil and plant, mainly in the irrigated treatments, being the TSE an important source of these nutrients and those should be considered in the management of fertilization. Although the K and S are provided by irrigation with EETE in sufficient quantities to meet the crop demand, the irrigation did not improve the plant nutrition related to these nutrients even in situations where it was observed deficiencies of these nutrients in the leaves. The rapid movement of these nutrients in the soil or interaction with other ions is the possible causes of the lack of effect. Nutrition with Fe, Zn and Mn was not related to the input of these micronutrients by EETE, but was related to the increase in soil pH that is associated with decreased availability of these nutrients. The management of irrigation and fertilization was critical in relation with the nitrogen whose contribution was unsynchronized with the sugarcane uptake and it was leached when applied in excess. The models for the prediction of N leaching should consider accumulated input of N, drainage and precipitation. The propagation of the error from the measurements of the matric potential of the water in the soil represented up to 70% of the variance of the nitrogen flux through the soil. (AU)