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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Liquid anaerobic digestate as sole nutrient source in soilless horticulture – or spiked with mineral nutrients for improved plant growth

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

Abstract

Digestate from biogas production high in plant-available macro- and micro-nutrients could replace mineral fertilizer in protected (soilless) horticulture. Previous uses of digestate have shown that low concentrations of plant-available phosphorus (P) and sulfur (S) may be limiting factors for growth when using digestate as the sole fertilizer. In this study, digestate collected from a municipal biogas plant in Sweden was nitrified in a moving-bed biofilm reactor prior to its use as fertilizer. A greenhouse pot trial with pak choi grown in peat-based growing medium was established to assess the (i) macro- and micro-nutrient availability in the digestate, with particular focus on P and S and (ii) the effect of amending the digestate solution with nutrients considered to be lacking [P, S, magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), boron (B), and molybdenum (Mo)]. The results showed that plants fertilized with raw digestate suffered from S and B deficiency and early P deficiency. Supplementing the digestate with nutrients originating from mineral salts resulted in sufficient plant tissue concentrations of all elements except S. The marketable yield was similar to that achieved using standard mineral fertilizer and the dry matter yield was 17% higher. In the light of the present results, the use of nitrified digestate in soilless plant production seems like a fruitful way forward to recycle organic nutrients from waste streams. In the case where a strict organic protocol is not needed, amendment with inorganic nutrients may be a way to increase the utilization of organically derived nutrients.

Keywords

bio-based society; biogas residues; hydroponics; nutrient solution; organic fertilizer; phosphorus; sulfur

Published in

Frontiers in Plant Science
2022, volume: 13, article number: 770179

Authors' information

Weimers, Kristina
Federation of Swedish Farmers (LRF)
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

SDG7 Affordable and clean energy
SDG13 Climate action
SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities

UKÄ Subject classification

Horticulture

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2022.770179

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/116445