Effect of anaerobic digestion of manure before application to soil – benefits for nitrogen utilization?

Document Type : Short communication


1 NIBIO, Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research Pb 115, NO-1431 Ås, Norway

2 Department of Chemical and Polymer Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Lagos State University, Lagos 100268, Nigeria

3 Swedish Centre for Resource Recovery, University of Borås, SE 50190 Borås, Sweden


Purpose Anaerobic digestion produces renewable energy, biogas, from organic residues, but also digestate, a valuable organic fertiliser. Previous studies have indicated that digestate contains ample plant available nitrogen (N), but there are also concerns about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions after application of digestates to soil. The aim of this study was to compare digestate and undigested feedstock for fertiliser effect as well as greenhouse gas emissions during the next season.
Methods Digestate and its feedstock, manure, were compared as N fertilisers for wheat. Mixing digestate with biochar before application was also tested. After harvest, soil samples were frozen and dried. Then GHG emissions immediately after a re-wetting of dry soil and after thawing of frozen soil were measured to determine emissions after a non-growing season (dry or cold).
Results All N in digestate was plant available, while there was no significant N fertiliser effect of the undigested manure. N2O emissions were higher after a dry season than after freezing, but the undigested manure showed higher emissions during thawing than those detected during thawing of soils from any of the other treatments.
Conclusion Anaerobic digestion makes N available to plants, and when residues with much N that is not plant available the first season are used, the risk of N2O emission next spring is high.


  • Digested animal manure was a good fertiliser, nitrogen was as available as in mineral fertiliser.
  • Undigested animal manure had no measurable fertiliser effect.
  • After a simulated winter, nitrous oxide emissions were highest where NUE the season before was lowest.
  • A dry season had less effect than a winter.
  • Anaerobic digestion is a good way to treat animal manure to increase fertiliser efficiency.


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