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Report, 2023

Fertilization of poplar plantations with dried sludge : a demonstration trial in Hillebola - central Sweden

Karacic, Almir; Adler, Anneli


Wastewater sludge contains essential nutrients for plant growth and is frequently used as fertilizer in European agriculture. Sludge contains elevated concentrations of heavy metals, microplastics, and other substances that may pose potential risks to human health and the environment. Nevertheless, dried pelletized sludge emerges as a viable product for fertilizing short-rotation poplar plantations within a circular model, enabling nutrient recycling and converting waste into a valuable resource to enhance biomass production for different markets. In Hillebola, central Sweden, we demonstrated the application of dried pelletized sludge to pilot plantations with climate-adapted Populus trichocarpa clones. The trial was established in four blocks with four treatments three years after the poplar trees were planted. The treatments were: mineral NPK fertilizer + soil cultivation between poplar rows, dried pelletized sludge + soil cultivation, no fertilization + soil cultivation only, and control (no treatments). The effect of fertilization on poplar growth was evaluated two years later, after the fifth growing season. The results showed a significantly improved basal area increment in NPK and sludge treatments compared to the control. The ground vegetation inventory revealed substantial differences in weed biomass between control and cultivated plots. Control plots contained double the amount of aboveground grass and herbaceous biomass (8.6 ton ha-1 ) compared to cultivated and cultivated + fertilized plots. The low-intensity Nordic-Baltic poplar establishment practices allow for a substantial amount of ground vegetation to develop until the canopy closure, potentially contributing to the soil carbon pool more than it is usually recognized when modeling carbon balances in short-rotation poplar plantations, which is the theme of our next report.


nutrients recycling; wastes; woody biomass production; fertilization; poplar; Populus; sewage sludge; limiting values; heavy metals; phosphorus; återvinning av näringsämnen; avfall; primärproduktion; gödsling; poppel; avloppsslam; gränsvärden; tungmetaller; fosfor

Published in

Report from the Department of Crop Production Ecology (VPE)
2023, number: 35
ISBN: 978-91-8046-671-4, eISBN: 978-91-8046-672-1
Publisher: Department of Crop Production Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences