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Wastewaters from citrus processing industry as natural biostimulants for soil microbial community

  • Autori: Ioppolo A.; Laudicina V.A.; Badalucco L.; Saiano F.; Palazzolo E.
  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2020
  • Tipologia: Articolo in rivista
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Citrus fruit processing wastewaters (CWWs), being rich in organic matter, may be a valuable resource for agricultural irrigation and, possibly, for the improvement of soil organic carbon (TOC). This issue is becoming crucial for soils of arid and semiarid environments increasingly experiencing water scarcity and continuous decline of TOC towards levels insufficient to sustain crop production. However, before using CWWs in agriculture their effects on the soil living component have to be clarified. Therefore, in this study we assessed the impact of CWWs on soil chemical and biochemical properties. Under laboratory conditions, lemon, orange and tangerine wastewaters were separately added to a sandy clay soil reaching 1/3, 2/3 and 3/3 of its 50% water holding capacity. Then soils were incubated for 56 days at 22–24 °C in the dark and analyzed for total and extractable organic C, microbial biomass C and N, and the main microbial groups at days 7, 28 and 56, while microbial respiration kinetics was fitted to a first-order decay model by nine distinct daily rates measurements throughout incubation. During the first 3 days following the addition of CWWs, soil pH decreased by 2–3 units; however, afterwards the soil recovered its initial pH values. Total and extractable C pools, as well as microbial biomass C and N, were stimulated by CWWS with such a stimulation depending on CWWs type and added dose. Also microbial respiration kinetics was greatly affected by CWWs, although the effects were generally ephemeral at the lowest two doses, whereas at the highest dose still persisted up to day 56, especially in orange and lemon wastewaters. The concomitant general increase of both microbial and metabolic quotients after the addition of CWWs suggested that also under stress conditions, soil microorganisms were able to immobilize C. Both bacteria and fungi were stimulated by CWWs but the latter, at the beginning of incubation, were more favored probably due to a transient soil acidification by CWWs. In conclusion, CWWs when added to a sandy-clay soil increased total and labile C pools, stimulated soil microbial activity and biomass, i.e. improved the overall biological soil fertility, thus suggesting a possible role of CWWs in sustainable agriculture. However, soil electrical conductivity has to be monitored when CWWs are applied recurrently.