Anaerobic processes are widely used for treatment of both municipal and industrial wastewater as well as agricultural substrates. In contrast to the aerobic methods, they are frequently more cost-efficient, they have a lower surplus sludge production, and the reactors can be run with higher volumetric loads and thus smaller volumes. In the paper presented both experimental data and the application of the Anaerobic Digestion Model No. 1 for agricultural substrate from livestock farming will be described. A 3,500 L reactor with mesophilic operation and loaded with cattle manure was examined with respect to its COD degradation, gas production, and gas composition. Results revealed a reduction of 30–35% COD and a biogas production of 287 LBiogas/kgVS when operated with a specific loading rate of 3.6 kgVS/(m3·d).

After calibration of the ADM 1, which was based predominantly on the acetate uptake rate (kac.m=3.6 g/(g·d)), the disintegration constant (kDis=0.05 d−1) and the exact determination of the influent COD fractions contained in the agricultural substrate, it was possible to simulate the measured data of the plant in excellent quality. For future application of the ADM 1 as part of control strategies a sensitivity analysis was carried out. The analysis based on the SVM slope technique has been done to identify highly sensitive biochemical parameters. These are, amongst others, the acetate uptake rate, the disintegration constant, the biomass decay rates and the half saturation constant for ammonia inhibition. Sensitivity analysis of the inflow COD fractions (proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and inert) showed the necessity of detailed measurements for the prediction of the gas flow and composition as well as for prognosis of inhibitions in the anaerobic process. For cattle manure especially the fractions of inert material and carbohydrates should be observed carefully. Due to the high content of NH4‐N in manure the protein fraction is not as sensitive as the two mentioned above.