Fuchs, Jacques G.; Baier, Urs; Berner, Alfred; Mayer, Jochen and Schleiss, Konrad (2008) Effects of digestate on the environment and on plant production - results of a research project. Workshop at: ECN/ORBIT e.V. Workshop 2008 „The future for Anaerobic Digestion of Organic Waste in Europe“, Germany, Nuremberg. [Completed]
Composts and digestates can influence soil fertility and plant health. These influences can be positive or negative, depending of the quality of the composts. A currently important question is to know, if digestates differ from composts in these aspects. A Swiss project is concerned with the estimation of the potential of Swiss composts and digestates to influence soil fertility and plant health positively. For this, one hundred composts and digestates representative of the different composting systems and qualities available on the Swiss market were analyzed.
The organic matter and nutrient content of the composts varied greatly between the composts and the digestates; the materials of origin were the major factor influencing these values. The respiration rate and enzyme activities also varied greatly; they are particularly important in digestates. The organic matter of digestates is less stable than that of composts.
The N-mineralization potential from the majority of the digestates added to soil is high, in comparison to young composts. When digestates are not correctly treated or stored, however, they can immobilize nitrogen in the soil. This problem is hardly correlated with the management of the digestate in the first stage after leaving the fermenter. Especially products which have become too dry during this period lost their ammonia-nitrogen, and hence immobilized nitrogen in the soil. The risk of phytotoxicity is higher in digestates than in composts. This limits the possibility for use of digestate. With a post-treatment of digestate, it is possible to produce high quality compost with a high compatibility with plant growth and with a more stabilized organic matter.
In field experiments, digestates increased the pH-value and the biological activity of soil to the same extent than composts. These effects were observable also one season after compost application. No immobilization of nitrogen was observed.
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