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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Utilizing Anaerobic Digestates as Nutrient Solutions in Hydroponic Production Systems

Bergstrand, Karl-Johan; Asp, Håkan; Hultberg, Malin

Abstract

Moving food production into the urban and peri-urban areas is one way of facilitating a closed-loop approach, integrating waste handling with food production in order to recirculate nutrients and at the same time reduce the use of mined and fossil resources in the production. Using anaerobic digestion as a way of converting urban wastes to an energy source (methane) and a nutrient-rich biodigestate with subsequent use as fertilizer for food production seems like a feasible approach. However, utilizing urban wastes in plant production systems implies some challenges, such as high salinity of the waste, imbalanced composition of nutrients, and abundance of less favorable forms of nitrogen. In a series of experiments, these problems were addressed. Vegetables (Pak Choi) were cultivated hydroponically in a controlled climate. Experiments included increased salinity, elevated levels of nitrite, and different concentrations of the biogas digestate-based nutrient solution, with mineral based solutions as controls. In general, the mineral controls yielded around 50% higher fresh biomass than the organic solutions. However, the quality of the produce with respect to content of secondary metabolites such as vitamins was enhanced when the plants were cultivated with organic nutrient solutions. Increasing the concentration of NaCl to 241 mg Cl L−1 did not negatively affect plant performance. Increasing the concentration of nitrite negatively affected plant growth, with reductions in biomass production by up to 50%. Given this well-functioning nitrification process that did not result in high nitrite concentrations, the use of anaerobic digestates seems feasible for hydroponic production of vegetables.

Keywords

biogas digestates; circular systems; hydroponic cultivation; nitrite; urban farming

Published in

Sustainability
2020, volume: 12, number: 23, article number: 10076

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biosystems and Technology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biosystems and Technology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biosystems and Technology

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities
SDG2 Zero hunger

UKÄ Subject classification

Horticulture

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/su122310076

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/109170