Is Composting a Route to Solubilize Low-Grade Phosphate Rocks and Improve MAP-Based Composts?

ABSTRACT: In alkalinized and Ca-rich composts, solubilization of apatite from phosphate rocks (PRs) is not guaranteed; however, chelating agents and humified substances produced during composting may alter the soluble contents and P forms of monoammonium phosphate (MAP)-based composts. These effects may depend on the proportions of organic wastes and P source used in the compost piles. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of composting chicken manure, coffee husk, and Araxá PR, Bayóvar PR, or MAP in different proportions on the organic matter decomposition, total N, Ca contents, and soluble P fractions in the composts. The treatments consisted of a 3 × 4 × 2 factorial, through the combination of three P sources [Araxá PR, Bayóvar PR, and MAP], with four mixtures in the respective proportions: 25, 40, 50, and 75 % of P source with 37.5, 40, 25, and 12.5 % of chicken manure, and 37.5, 20, 25, and 12.5 % of coffee husk, composted or not for 150 days. The composts with PRs showed greater reductions in total C and water-soluble C and lower dry mass yields than MAP-based composts. The use of MAP in mixtures ensured lower N losses compared to composts formulated with PRs. Regardless of the mixture among chicken manure, coffee husk, and PRs, composting increased the pH and total Ca contents and did not alter the fractions of soluble P in water, in citric acid, and in neutral ammonium citrate plus water in the final PR-based composts. Composting of these mixtures was not an efficient route to solubilize P from Araxá and Bayóvar PRs. Values of pH above 8 and high Ca contents were the main factors explaining the stability and non-solubilization of the apatite of PRs in the composts. Composting with MAP, mixed in different proportions with chicken manure and coffee husk, reduced water-soluble P, maintained the pH of the mixtures in the range of 5 to 7, and enriched the composts with N and P.