Impact on water quality of high and low density applications of spent mushroom substrate to agricultural lands

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Kaplan, L.A., L.J. Standley, and J.D. Newbold. 1995. Compost Science and Utilization 3:55–63.

doi: 10.1080/1065657X.1995.10701769


We studied the influence of spent mushroom substrate (SMS) land application on water resources. Four study sites, including mushroom farms with low or high density land applications of SMS, and two controls, an alfalfa field and a woodland, were instrumented with soilwater lysimeters and groundwater monitoring wells. Water samples were collected during the dormant season (winter) and growing season (spring). Samples were analyzed for a number of water quality parameters, including dissolved organic carbon (DOC), dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), ammonia, chloride, nitrate, nitrite, phosphate, sulfate, aluminum, cadmium, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, lead, magnesium, manganese, mercury, nickel, potassium, silicon, sodium, and zinc. Additional analyses were performed for pesticides commonly used in the cultivation of alfalfa or corn, or for insect control, including methomyl, dimethoate, hexazinone, atrazine, diuron and permethrin.

All agricultural sites had elevated salt concentrations relative to the woodland site. The mushroom farm where SMS was applied in high concentrations had salt concentrations in the soilwater that were 10 to 100 times higher than the other agricultural sites. Of particular note were ammonium, nitrate, chloride, sulfate, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. Each of these were also elevated in the groundwater. The high salt concentrations were reflected in measurements of electrical conductivity. DOC and DON concentrations were also elevated in the soilwater and groundwater. Groundwater from each agricultural site, including the agricultural control, exceeded the primary drinking water standard for nitrate.

No pesticide residues were detected in well or lysimeter water collected at either site amended with SMS. Water samples collected from the woodland and at the alfalfa field not receiving SMS contained part per trillion quantities of a few pesticides.