Greenhouse gas emissions from digestate in soil

Document Type : Original Article


Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, NIBIO NO-1431 As, Norway


Purpose Biogas residues, digestates, contain valuable nutrients and are therefore suitable as agricultural fertilizers. However, the application of fertilizers, including digestates, can enhance greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In this study different processes and post-treatments of digestates were analyzed with respect to triggered GHG emissions in soil.
Methods In an incubation experiment, GHG emissions from two contrasting soils (chernozem and sandy soil) were compared after the application of digestate products sampled from the process chain of a food waste biogas plant: raw substrate, digestate (with and without bentonite addition), digestates after separation of liquid and solid phase and composted solid digestate. In addition, the solid digestate was sampled at another plant.
Results The plant, where the solid digestate originated from, and the soil type influenced nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions significantly over the 38-day experiment. Composting lowered N2O emissions after soil application, whereas bentonite addition did not have a significant effect. High peaks of N2O emissions were observed during the first days after application of acidified, liquid fraction of digestate. N2O emissions were strongly correlated to initial ammonium (NH4+) content.
Conclusion Fertilization with dewatered digestate (both fractions) increased N2O emission, especially when applied to soils high in nutrients and organic matter.



Aguilera E, Lassaletta L, Sanz-Cobena A, Garnier J, Vallejo A (2013) The potential of organic fertilizers and water management to reduce N2O emissions in Mediterranean climate cropping systems. A review. Agric. Ecosyst Environ 164: 32–52. https:// 1016/ j.agee. 2012.09.006
Alburquerque JA, de la Fuente C, Ferre-Costa A, Carrasco L, Cegarra J, Abad M, Bernal MP (2012a) Assessment of the fertiliser potential of digestates from farm and agro-industrial residues. Biomass Bioenergy 40:181–189. https://doi:10.1016/j.biombioe.2012.02.018
Alburquerque JA, de la Fuente C, Campoy M, Carrasco L, Nájera I, Baixauli C, Caravaca F, Roldán A, Cegarra J, Bernal MP (2012b) Agricultural use of digestate for horticultural crop production and improvement of soil properties. Eur J Agron 43: 119–28. https://doi:10. 1016/j.eja.2012.06.001
Amlinger F, Peyr S (2008) Green house gas emissions from composting and mechanical biological treatment. Waste Manag Res 26: 47–60. https://doi:10.1177/ 0734242X07088432
Blume HP, Stahr K, Leinweber P (2011) Bodenkundliches Praktikum. 3rd ed. Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Heidelberg
Boldrin A, Andersen JK, Møller J, Christensen TH (2009) Composting and compost utilization : Accounting of greenhouse gases and global warming contributions. Waste Manag Res 27: 800–812. https://doi:10.1177/ 0734242X09345275
Dahlin  AS, Ramezanian A, Campbell CD, Hillier S, Öborn I (2015) Waste recovered by-products can increase growth of grass – clover mixtures in low fertility soils and alter botanical and mineral nutrient composition. Ann Appl Biol 166: 105‑17. https://doi: 10.1111/aab.12168
Deelstra J, Greipsland I (2017) Korn På Marine Avsetninger. Jord- og vannovervåking i landbruket. NIBIO Rapport 3 (44) fra JOVA-programmet for Skuterudfeldet
Del Prado A, Merino P, Estavillo JM, Pinto M, Gonzalez-Murua C (2006) N2O and NO emissions from different N sources under a range of soil water contents. Nutri Cycl Agroecosyst 74: 229 –243.  https://doi:10.1007/ s10705-006-9001-6
Ermolaev E, Jarvis Å, Sundberg C, Smårs S, Pell M, Jönsson H (2015) Nitrous Oxide and Methane emissions from food waste composting at different temperatures. Waste Manag 46: 113–19. https://doi:10.1016/j. wasman.2015.08.021
Fillingham, MA, Vanderzaag AC, Burtt S, Baldé H, Ngwabie NM, Smith W, Hakami A, Wagner-Riddle C, Bittman S,  Macdonald D (2017) Greenhouse gas and Ammonia emissions from production of compost bedding on a dairy farm. Waste Manag 70: 45-52. https://doi:10. 1016/j.wasman.2017.09.013
García-Albacete M, Tarquis AM, Cartagena MC (2014) Risk of leaching in soils amended by compost and digestate from municipal solid waste. Sci World J Vol 2014: Article ID 565174 8 p. https:// doi. org/ 10.1155/ 2014/ 565174
Garcia-Ruiz R, Baggs EM (2007) N2O emission from soil following combined application of fertiliser-N and ground weed residues. Plant Soil 299: 263–74. https://doi:10.1007/s11104-007-9382-6
Hellebrand HJ, Kleinke M (2000) Klimarelevante spurengase beim kompostieren. Landtechnik 6/96: 340-41.
Holm-Nielsen JB, Al Seadi T, Oleskowicz-Popiel P (2009) The future of anaerobic digestion and biogas utilization. Bioresour Technol 100 (22): 5478–5484. https://doi: 10. 1016/j.biortech.2008.12.046
Horschig T, Adams PWR, Röder M, Thornley P, Thrän D (2016) Reasonable potential for GHG savings by anaerobic biomethane in Germany and UK derived from economic and ecological analyses. Appl. Energy 184: 840–52. https://doi:10.1016/ j.apenergy. 2016.07.098
IPCC (2007) In: Climate Change 2007: The physical science basis contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change (eds Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt KB, Tignor M, Miller HL), pp. 996. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, USA
Jiang T, Schuchardt F, Xue G, Guo R, Ming Y (2013) Gaseous emission during the composting of pig feces from Chinese Ganqinfen system. Chemosphere 90 (4). Elsevier Ltd: 1545–51. https://doi:10.1016/j. chemosphere.2012.08.056
Johansen A, Carter MS, Jensen ES, Hauggaard-Nielsen H, Ambus, P (2013) Effects of digestate from anaerobically digested cattle slurry and plant materials on soil microbial community and emission of CO2 and N2O. Appl Soil Ecol 63: 36-44
Lim S L, Lee L H, Wu T Y (2016) Sustainability of using composting and vermicomposting technologies for organic solid waste biotransformation: recent overview, greenhouse gases emissions and economic analysis. J Clean Prod 111, Part A: 262-278. 10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.08.083
Losak T, Hlusek J, Zatloukalova A, Musilova L, Skarpa P, Zlamalova T,  Fryc J, Vitez T, Marecek J, Martensson A (2014) Digestate from biogas plants is an attractive alternative to mineral fertilisation of Kohlrabi. J Sustain Dev Energy Water Environ Syst 2 (4): 309–18. dx. https://doi. org/10.13044/j. sdewes.2014.02.0025
Ma Z, Li Q, Yue Q, Gao B, Li W, Xu X, Zhong Q (2011) Adsorption removal of ammonium and phosphate from water by fertilizer controlled release agent prepared from wheat straw. Chem Eng J 171 (3): 1209–17. https://doi:10.1016/j.cej.2011.05.027
Maag M, Vinther FP (1996) Nitrous oxide emission by nitrification and denitrification in different soil types and at different soil moisture contents and temperatures.  Appl Soil Ecol 4: 5–14
Makadi M, Nemeth-Borsanyi B (2016) Development of green and innovative organo-mineral fertilizer products and prototype equipment for their production HU09-0096-A2-2016. Professional work progress report 5: 5.1 Adsorption studies of P and N with bentonite in liquid systems. University of Debrecen, Institutes for Agricultural Research and Educational Farm, Research Institute of Nyíregyháza, Hungary
Mapanda F, Wuta M, Nyamangara J, Rees RM (2011) Effects of organic and mineral fertilizer nitrogen on greenhouse gas emissions and plant-captured carbon under maize cropping in Zimbabwe. Plant Soil 343: 67–81. https://doi:10.1007/s11104-011-0753-7
Möller K, Müller T (2012) Effects of anaerobic digestion on digestate nutrient availability and crop growth : A review. Eng Life Sci 3: 242–57. https://doi:10.1002/ elsc.201100085
Möller K, Stinner W (2009) Effects of different manuring systems with and without biogas digestion on soil mineral nitrogen content and on gaseous nitrogen losses (Ammonia, Nitrous Oxides). Eur J Agron 30 (1): 1–16. https://doi:10.1016/j.eja.2008.06.003
Morkved T, Bakken LR, Liu B (2010) Denitrification gene pools, transcription and kinetics of NO, N2O and N2 production as affected by soil pH. FEMS Microbiol 
Myhre G, Shindell D, Bréon F-M, Collins W, Fuglestvedt J, Huang J, Koch D, Lamarque J-F, Lee D, Mendoza B, Nakajima T, Robock A, Stephens G, Takemura T, Zhang H (2013) Anthropogenic and natural radiative forcing. climate change 2013: The physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fifth assessment report of the IPCC: p714. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA
Nkoa R (2014) Agricultural benefits and environmental risks of soil fertilization with anaerobic digestates: A review. Agron Sustain Dev 34 (2): 473–92. https://doi: 10.1007/s13593-013-0196-z
Nusbaum NJ (2010) Dairy livestock methane remediation and global warming. J Community Health 35: 500–502. https://doi:10.1007/s10900-010-9219-8
Parkin TB (1987) Soil microsites as a source of denitrification variability. Soil Sci Soc Am J 5: 1194–99.
Pivato A, Raga R (2006) Tests for the evaluation of ammonium attenuation in MSW landfill leachate by adsorption into bentonite in a landfill liner. Waste Manage 26: 123–32. https://doi:10.1016/j.wasman.2005.03.009
Ranucci S, Bertolini T, Vitale L, Di Tommasi P, Ottaiano L, Oliva M, Amato U, Fierro A (2011) The influence of management and environmental variables on soil N2O emissions in a crop system in southern Italy. Plant Soil 343: 83–96. https://doi:10.1007/s11104-010-0674-x
Raut N, Dörsch P, Sitaula BK, Bakken LR (2012) Soil acidification by intensified crop production in south Asia results in higher N2O/(N2+N2O) product ratios of denitrification. Soil Biol Biochem 55: 104–12. https://doi:10.1016/j.soilbio.2012.06.011
Ridgwell A J, Marshall S J, Gregson K (1999) Consumption of atmospheric methane by soils: A process‐based model. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 13(1): 59–70. https://doi: 10.1029/1998GB900004
Senbayram M, Chen R, Mühling K H, Dittert K (2009) Contribution of nitrification and denitrification to nitrous oxide emissions from soils after application of biogas waste and other fertilizers. Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom 2489-2498.  https://doi: 10.1002/rcm
Senbayram M,  Chen R, Wienforth B, Herrmann A, Kage H, Mühling K H, Dittert K (2014) Emission of N2O from biogas crop production systems in northern Germany. Bioenerg Res 7: 1223. https://doi: 10.1007/s12155-014-9456-2
Sigurnjak I, Vaneeckhaute C, Michels E, Ryckaert B, Ghekiere G, Tack FMG, Meers E (2017) Fertilizer performance of liquid fraction of digestate as synthetic nitrogen substitute in silage maize cultivation for three consecutive years. Sci Total Environ 599–600: 1885–94. https://doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.05.120
Šimek M, Cooper JE (2002) The influence of soil pH on denitrification : Progress towards the understanding of this interaction over the last 50 Years. Eur J Soil Sci 53: 345–54. 2002. 00461.x
Smith K A, Ball T, Conen F, Dobbie K E, Massheder J, Rey A (2018) Exchange of greenhouse gases between soil and atmosphere: interactions of soil physical factors and biological processes. Eur J Soil Sci 69: 10-20. https:// doi:10.1111/ejss.12539
Smith P, Bustamante M, Ahammad H, Clark H, Dong H, Elsiddig EA, Haberl H et al. (2014) Climate change 2014: Mitigation of climate change. Contribution of working group III to the fifth assessment report of the IPCC. Cambridge University Press IPCC (AFOLU)  811–922.  https://www.ipcc. ch/report/ ar5/wg3
Sosulski T, Szara E, Szymańska M, Stępień W (2017) N2O emission and nitrogen and carbon leaching from the soil in relation to long-term and current mineral and organic fertilization – a Laboratory Study. Plant Soil Environ 63 (3): 97–104. https://doi:10.17221/205/2016-PSE
Tchobanoglous G, Stensel HD, Tsuchihashi R, Burton F, Abu-Orf M, Bowden G, Pfrang W (2014) Waste water engineering -treatment and resource recovery. 5th edn. Metcalf and Eddy, AECOM
Topp E, Pattey E (1997) Soils as sources and sinks for atmospheric methane. Can. J. Soil Sci 77: 167–178.
USEPA (Environmental Protection Agency) (2012) Global anthropogenic Non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions: 1990 - 2030. U.S. EPA 430-R- (December)
USEPA (Environmental Protection Agency) (1993) Manual nitrogen control. U.S. EPA no. September
Van Lent J, Hergoualc’h K,Verchot LV (2015) Reviews and syntheses : Soil N2O and NO emissions from land use and land-use change in the tropics and subtropics : A Meta-analysis. Biogesosciences 12: 7299–7313. https:// doi:10.5194/bg-12-7299-2015
Wang B, Lerdau M, He Y (2017) Widespread production of nonmicrobial greenhouse gases in soils. Glob Change Biol March 2017: 1–12. https://doi:10.1111/gcb.13753
Wang FL, Alva AK (2000) Ammonium adsorption and desorption in sandy soils. Soil Sci Soc Am J 64/5: 1669–74. https://doi: 10.2136/sssaj2000.6451669x
Wang X, Lü S, Gao C, Xu X, Zhang X, Bai X, Liu M, Wu L (2014) Highly efficient adsorption of ammonium onto palygorskite nanocomposite and evaluation of its recovery as a multifunctional slow-release fertilizer. Chem Eng J 252: 404–14. https://doi: 10.1016/ j. cej. 2014.04.097