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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Evaluating Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Soil Application of Anaerobic Organic Digestive Compared With Conventional Manure


The state of California is investing in anaerobic digesters to reduce methane emissions from agriculture. However, little is known about the impact of anaerobic digesters on nitrous oxide (N2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from soils after land application of digestate. The purpose of this study was to compare soil CO2 and N2O emission fluxes from anaerobic digestate treatment in conjunction with manure, manure treatment, and a control group without treatment on agricultural soils from two dairy farms. In addition to comparing treatments and sites, we tested the effects of temperature at either 23°C or 28°C to compare predicted future average temperatures. Soil samples were placed in mason jars with 18 jars per location: three manure treatments x 2, temperatures x 3 replications per treatment, and incubated for six weeks according to the temperature treatment. Soils were watered once a week to maintain 65% water holding capacity. Cavity ring-down spectrometers were used to collect gas emissions in a closed-loop system, and elemental analyzers were used to evaluate soil and treatment nutrient composition. We hypothesized that three main variables — manure, lower temperatures, and soils with low-nutrient content in conjunction with anaerobic diges- tate would all lead to lower emissions. Anaerobic digestate has been found to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also being a nutrient-rich energy source. Microbial soil communities are also more active in warmer temperatures, which may increase the production of gas emissions. Overall, the results were inconclusive for either argument.

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