Field weathering of spent mushroom substrate (SMS) produces soluble compost leachate that percolates into underlying soils and may adversely impact groundwater. Laboratory experiments were conducted to investigate movement and retention of SMS leachate solutes in subsurface soil columns. Spent mushroom substrate leachate with high concentrations of dissolved organic matter (DOM) and inorganic salts was passively loaded to intact and repacked columns of Bt1 soil (fine-loamy, mixed, semiactive, mesic Typic Hapludults) and effluents were monitored for changes in chemical composition. Transport of SMS leachate in undisturbed soil cores was mainly via preferential flow, whereas matrix flow was predominant in repacked soil columns. Leachate DOM and phosphate were sorbed by soil minerals while Cl-, SO42-, Na+ and NH4+ were eluted. Leachate K+ displaced exchangeable native cations and was retained. Biodegradation of leachate DOM resulted in reduction and elution of soil Mn and Fe, especially in repacked columns. Persistent anoxia also inhibited nitrification. Precipitation of gypsum and CaCO3 blocked preferential flow channels, and movement of SMS leachate was subsequently reduced. The results demonstrate that SMS leachate migrates via rapid preferential flow initially, followed by matrix flow at a lower rate. Leachate solutes may transport to depth in soil profiles through preferential channels. To protect water resources, weathering of deep SMS piles should be conducted on compact surfaces or in fields with a condensed soil layer (no structural cracks) above the groundwater table, and measures controlling leachate runoff be imposed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Waste Management and Disposal