Predicting relative agronomic efficiency of phosphorus-rich organic residues

Kari Ylivainio, Alma Lehti, Johannes Jermakka, Hanne Wikberg, Eila Turtola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Relative agronomic efficiency (RAE) of phosphorus (P) in nutrient-rich residues with different chemical characteristics must be known in order to optimize their use as fertilizers, to avoid underfertilization of crops or eutrophication of surface waters due to overfertilization. In this study, we determined the chemical characteristics and RAE of manures (cattle, pig, fox) and sewage sludges subjected to different treatments (anaerobic digestion, composting, lime stabilization, thermal hydrolyzation, pyrolyzation, hydrothermal carbonization (HTC)) by growing barley (Hordeum vulgare, var. Elmeri) to maturity in three independent growth trials. All manures had high RAE (up to 189% in pig slurry), while RAE was only 6–17% for digested and composted sewage sludges when precipitation with Fe used for P removal from wastewater. Pyrolyzation and HTC further depressed RAE to 1–6%. Alternative wastewater treatment processes are therefore needed to increase P recycling potential. For cattle and pig manures and anaerobically digested or composted sewage sludges, molar ratio of (Fe + Al)/P, varying from 0.08 to 2.69, was the best predictor of RAE (R2 = 0.99), with negative correlations with grain yield. Sources in which calcium was more influential for P solubility (fox manure and lime-stabilized sewage sludge) and pyrolyzed and HTC-treated residues did not follow this trend. Conventional extraction methods (2% formic acid, 2% citric acid, neutral ammonium citrate, water and 0.5 M NaHCO3) either underestimated or overestimated RAE of P-rich organic residues, depending on their chemical characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number145618
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Biochar
  • HTC
  • Manure
  • Phosphorus solubility
  • RAE
  • Sewage sludge


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