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Long-term Irrigation with Dairy Factory Wastewater Influences Soil Quality

Authors: Yen-Yiu Liu, Richard J. Haynes


The effects of irrigation with dairy factory wastewater on soil properties were investigated at two sites that had received irrigation for > 60 years. Two adjoining paired sites that had never received DFE were also sampled as well as another seven fields from a wider area around the factory. In comparison with paired sites that had not received effluent, long-term wastewater irrigation resulted in an increase in pH, EC, extractable P, exchangeable Na and K and ESP. These changes were related to the use of phosphoric acid, NaOH and KOH as cleaning agents in the factory. Soil organic C content was unaffected by DFE irrigation but the size (microbial biomass C and N) and activity (basal respiration) of the soil microbial community were increased. These increases were attributed to regular inputs of soluble C (e.g. lactose) present as milk residues in the wastewater. Principal component analysis (PCA) of the soils data from all 11sites confirmed that the main effects of DFE irrigation were an increase in exchangeable Na, extractable P and microbial biomass C, an accumulation of soluble salts and a liming effect. PCA analysis of soil bacterial community structure, using PCR-DGGE of 16S rDNA fragments, generally separated individual sites from one another but did not group them according to irrigation history. Thus, whilst the size and activity of the soil microbial community were increased, the structure and diversity of the bacterial community remained unaffected.

Keywords: Dairy factory, wastewater; effluent, irrigation, soil quality.

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