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Zhihui Chang, Laiqiang Zhuo, Fangfang Yu and Xunzhong Zhang

Biosolids are valued as a source of plant nutrients, soil organic matter, and biologically active substances. This greenhouse study was designed to examine if application of biosolids can improve plant drought tolerance by affecting nitrogen (N) and hormone metabolism as well as root growth in kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.; KBG). The three treatments, which provided N rates equivalent to 75 mg plant-available N/kg soil, included: 1) biosolids at 1× agronomic (Ag) N rate (75 mg N/kg soil completely provided with biosolids); 2) biosolids at 0.5× Ag N rate (37.5 mg N/kg soil provided with biosolids and 37.5 mg N/kg soil provided with NH4NO3); and 3) control (75 mg N/kg soil completely provided with NH4NO3). The treated KBG was grown under either well-watered (90% container capacity) or drought stress (≈25% container capacity) conditions. Biosolids application improved turf quality and delayed leaf wilting under drought stress. The grass treated with biosolids at 1× N rate had higher leaf proline and amino acid content and greater nitrate reductase activity than the control under drought stress. Biosolids treatments also increased leaf and soil indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) content. Moreover, biosolids at 1× N rate increased root length density by 23% compared with the control under drought stress. The results of this study suggest that biosolids may enhance plant drought tolerance by improving N and hormone metabolism and root growth in KBG.