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13C solid-state NMR assessment of decomposition pattern during co-composting of sewage sludge and green wastes
European Journal of Soil Science
The fate of organic matter during composting is poorly understood. Therefore, we analysed composts of sewage sludges and green wastes (44 samples representative of 11 stages of biodegradation) by conventional chemical methods: pH, humic (HA) and fulvic acid (FA) content, C, N and organic matter (OM) content, and by C-13 CPMAS NMR to assess the decomposition process of the organic matter. Chemical changes clearly occurred in two phases: first, decomposition of OM during the first 2 months was characterized by decreased C/N ratios, OM content and increased pH; and second, a humification process with increased HA/FA ratios. NMR spectrum changes confirmed this pattern, with an increase in aromaticity and a decrease in alkyl C. A decrease of syringyl to guaiacyl ratio (S/G), a sign of lignin transformation, also indicated humification during composting. NMR spectroscopic properties of composts were also studied by means of principal components analysis (PCA) and revealed changes according to the degree of compost maturation. The factorial map presents a chronological distribution of composts on the two first principal components. The influences of eight chemical factors on the PCA ordination of composts as monitored by their evolution by NMR were also studied by multivariate analyses. PCA clearly indicated two phases: the rapid decomposition of organic matter followed by the formation of humic-like substances. The first phase, that is 'new' composts, was strongly correlated with OM contents, pH and C/N ratios whereas the second phase, corresponding to 'old' compost, was correlated with pH, HA content and HA/FA ratio. These results confirm that knowledge of the formation of humic substances is indispensable to suitable monitoring of the composting process.
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