What is your opinion of using treated sewage for garden fertilizer
(termed NutriGreen in my community)? It is banned from use meeting
federal standards for organic approval. Is there scientific data,
pro or con? Also, you told me that a good stand of crimson clover
does not reflect the level of soil fertility. Is there any cover
crop or weed that does?
Edward L Alexander,
The position of The Rodale Institute coincides with that of the
federal guidelines for certified organic agricultural practices.
Unfortunately, most of the research that's been done on treated
sewage has been done by the industry that has the product and needs
to find a home for it, so could be a bit suspect. I personally think
there are some wonderful uses for the material in mined land reclamation,
road bank revitalization, and major construction projects where
large amounts of earth has been relocated. Food production, especially
vegetables for human consumption, is not the best use. If you planned
on using the product, I would be very careful. I certainly would
not plant root crops into it and harvest them for personal consumption.
You also asked about plants as soil-health indicators. This is
not my area of expertise; however I will say that the presence of
certain weeds can be an indicator of soil pH, organic matter, or
nutrient content. Cover crop quality may or may not be an indicator.
My suggestion is to go to Gempler's catalog www.gemplers.com
and look at the soil health test kit they sell based on the design
by Dr. John Duran, USDA-ARS. You could use the tests in the kit
and cross reference the results you get to the weeds you see over
time and develop your own rating system to use the weeds or cover
crops as indicators.
Hope this information helps. Good luck with the 2005 growing season.
Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail him
directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.