As organic farming prohibits the use of synthetic fertilisers, animal slurries and manures must be used. Digestate offers an alternative to these and this study reports on three experiments conducted to determine its usability in terms of: (1) the effect on earthworm populations, (2) its fertilising effects on Italian Ryegrass and wild Creeping Thistle, and (3) the suppression effects digestate has on weed emergence. The results for digestate application to field plots were intermediate between slurry and no treatment for earthworm attraction and wild thistle suppression. In glasshouse trials it led to increased ryegrass growth compared with undigested slurry. Analysis showed that the digestate had improved nitrogen availability, leading to increased plant growth, but a reduced organic matter content compared with the slurry, leading to a positive though less beneficial impact on the earthworms. Digestate therefore provides a suitable fertiliser for organic farming. This suitability could be improved by drying or separation to increase the OM content making its properties closer to those of slurry whilst still retaining the higher content of plant available nitrogen.
The usability of digestate in organic farming
L. J. Clements, A. M. Salter, C. J. Banks, G. M. Poppy; The usability of digestate in organic farming. Water Sci Technol 1 November 2012; 66 (9): 1864–1870. doi: https://doi.org/10.2166/wst.2012.389
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