Land Application Program for Farmers
Biosolids beneficial use programs rely on farmers in the local agricultural community as a critical team member. Biosolids and other residual materials have been beneficially used on agronomic crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay for more than 100 years. Farmers in land application programs we have managed have seen increased crop yields, enhanced soil organic matter, and overall improvements in soil health.
Accepting New Farmers for Land Application Program
We always welcome new farmers to participate in land application programs, and we recognize you may have some questions before entering a program. We have addressed some of the most frequently asked questions below and welcome you to reach out to us here if you are interested in more information.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are biosolids?
Biosolids are produced by cleaning, recycling, and transforming 100% of the poop and food that goes down toilets and drains. To start the process, the water used by homes is transported to local wastewater treatment plants. At the plant, naturally occurring bacteria break down the solids and kill disease-causing organisms. The resulting product – biosolids – is a slow-release fertilizer full of organic matter, and a variety of nutrients to generates healthier, more productive soil.
- What are the benefits of biosolids?
Like manures, biosolids are an organic-based, slow-release source of nutrients. Biosolids function as a natural soil builder, improving soil structure and acting like a sponge. Farm sites that have received biosolids over multiple years have seen improved crop yields, reduced compaction, improved soil water retention, among other soil health improvements.
- What are the classifications of biosolids?
Biosolids are classified as Class A Exceptional Quality (EQ) and Class B. Class B biosolids are the most common type of biosolids product. Class B biosolids are treated to very high levels but do require some additional management practices to allow soil microbes in the environment to serve as a natural treatment system. Sites that receive Class biosolids will typically require a permit or qualification; this work/service is provided by Material Matters and is paid for by the utility.
Class A EQ biosolids are treated to the highest levels, allowing the biosolids to be used in a variety of markets including agriculture, soil blending, and direct public sales with limited restrictions. In most cases, land application sites receiving Class A biosolids do not need to be permitted or approved by regulatory agencies.
- I have heard biosolids contain heavy metals, is this true?
Metals are naturally occurring in the soil and plants require some metals – known as micronutrients. But it is possible to have too much of a good thing. The EPA set limits on nine metals, which are tested by wastewater treatment plants routinely.
- What will my neighbors think?
We have seen that the biggest challenge neighbors tend to be concerned with are product odors. Just like any organic-based fertilizer, biosolids do have an odor. The specific odor profile of a biosolids product is dependent on the specific wastewater and solids processing system where the biosolids product comes from. To reduce challenges associated with odors, biosolids should be manages as any manure – with best management practices – taking care to spread biosolids during favorable weather and not during sensitive times of the year (i.e., on July 4th, during an outdoor wedding).
- What are the costs and equipment needs to use biosolids?
The costs associated with biosolids products will vary based on the specific biosolids product – biosolids come in a variety of forms including lime-stabilized cake and digested cake (similar to pen-pack manure), compost, and thermally dried granules (similar to granular fertilizers). Most biosolids products are compatible with most manure spreaders. The specific cost arrangement between the utility and the farmer varies on a case-by-case basis and will be discussed at the initial phase of program entry.