Nitrate content of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) after fertilization with sewage sludge and irrigation with treated wastewater

E Castro, M P Mañas, J De Las Heras
Food Additives & Contaminants. Part A, Chemistry, Analysis, Control, Exposure & Risk Assessment 2009, 26 (2): 172-9
A romaine-type lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) was cultivated over three crop seasons (spring 2005, spring 2006 and autumn-winter 2006) in six 36 m(2) plots in Alcázar de San Juan, Spain. A drip irrigation system was used to water all plots: five plots with drinking water and one plot with wastewater from the activated sludge system of a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). One drinking water-irrigated plot was not fertilized (control). Five different treatments were applied to the soil: three organic mixtures (sewage sludge, sewage sludge mixed with pine bark and municipal solid waste with composted sludge) and a conventional fertilizer were applied to the four plots irrigated with drinking water. The last plot was irrigated with treated wastewater. The treatments were tested for their effect on plant growth and nitrate concentration in vegetable tissue. An increase in fresh weight in the lettuce was linked to the dosage of sewage sludge. The highest nitrate level was observed in the sewage sludge treatment in all crops and seasons, although, in general, all values were below the maximum limits established by the European Commission for nitrate content in fresh romaine lettuce. In the third crop season, a significant increase in nitrate content was observed in lettuce from organic treatments. Nitrate concentration in lettuce from irrigated treated wastewater was higher than control, although significant differences were not found.

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