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Waste to resource: use of water treatment residual for increased maize productivity and micronutrient content

Gwandu, T.; Blake, L.I.; Nezomba, H.; Rurinda, J.; Chivasa, S.; Mtambanengwe, F.; Johnson, K.L.

Waste to resource: use of water treatment residual for increased maize productivity and micronutrient content Thumbnail


L.I. Blake

H. Nezomba

J. Rurinda

F. Mtambanengwe


Soil degradation, which is linked to poor nutrient management, remains a major constraint to sustained crop production in smallholder urban agriculture (UA) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). While organic nutrient resources are often used in UA to complement mineral fertilizers in soil fertility management, they are usually scarce and of poor quality to provide optimum nutrients for crop uptake. Alternative soil nutrient management options are required. This study, therefore, evaluates the short-term benefits of applying an aluminium-based water treatment residual (Al-WTR), in combination with compost and inorganic P fertilizer, on soil chemical properties, and maize (Zea mays L.) productivity and nutrient uptake. An eight-week greenhouse experiment was established with 12 treatments consisting of soil, Al-WTR and compost (with or without P fertilizer). The co-amendment (10% Al-WTR + 10% compost) produced maize shoot biomass of 3.92 ± 0.16 g at 5 weeks after emergence, significantly (p < 0.05) out-yielding the unamended control which yielded 1.33 ± 0.17 g. The addition of P fertilizer to the co-amendment further increased maize shoot yield by about twofold (7.23 ± 0.07 g). The co-amendment (10% Al-WTR + 10% C) with P increased maize uptake of zinc (Zn), copper (Cu) and manganese (Mn), compared with 10% C + P. Overall, the results demonstrate that combining Al-WTR, compost and P fertilizer increases maize productivity and micronutrient uptake in comparison with single amendments of compost and fertilizer. The enhanced micronutrient uptake can potentially improve maize grain quality, and subsequently human nutrition for the urban population of SSA, partly addressing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal number 3 of improving diets.


Gwandu, T., Blake, L., Nezomba, H., Rurinda, J., Chivasa, S., Mtambanengwe, F., & Johnson, K. (2022). Waste to resource: use of water treatment residual for increased maize productivity and micronutrient content. Environmental Geochemistry and Health, 44(10), 3359-3376.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 10, 2021
Online Publication Date Sep 27, 2021
Publication Date 2022-10
Deposit Date Sep 28, 2021
Publicly Available Date Sep 28, 2021
Journal Environmental Geochemistry and Health
Print ISSN 0269-4042
Electronic ISSN 1573-2983
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 44
Issue 10
Pages 3359-3376


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