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Weimers, Kristina, 2020. Nutrient dynamics in pak choi cultivation fertilized with biogas digestate : effects of non-nutrient digestate elements and amendment with mineral nutrients. Second cycle, A2E. Alnarp: SLU, Department of Biosystems and Technology (from 130101)

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Anaerobic digestion in biogas plants produces renewable energy and a residue which is rich in
plant nutrients. This residue is called digestate. Today, these digestates are mostly spread
directly onto fields as manure. However, due to their high content of plant-available macroand
micronutrients, digestates also have the potential to replace synthetic fertilizers in
protected horticulture in soilless systems, contributing to the completion of global energy and
nutrient cycles. However, this places more demands on their nutrient composition because,
unlike fertilizers in soil systems, fertilizers in soilless systems have to provide the crop with
all essential macro- and micronutrients at sufficient levels during the whole cropping cycle.
Most reports from trials in soilless systems emphasize that the high ammonium nitrogen
(NH4-N) to nitrate nitrogen (NO3-N) ratio in digestates constitutes a problem. Furthermore,
low concentrations and recovery efficiency of phosphorus (P) and sulphur (S) have been
highlighted as limiting factors for growth. However, as all digestates differ in composition,
other nutrients might also be present at insufficient levels. Accordingly, it has been
recommended that a share of the NH4-N in the digestate is converted to NO3-N before
application, and that the digestate is supplemented with the missing macro- and
micronutrients. However, to date, trials with digestate fertilizers in protected horticulture are
limited, and the results are conflicting.
In addition to plant nutrients, digestates contain a complex mixture of partially degraded
organic matter and inorganic compounds, including substances that, when derived from other
organic source materials, have been reported to have biostimulatory properties. Digestates
derived from protein-rich feedstocks have been reported to contain the auxin indole-3-acetic
acid (IAA), as well as other plant hormones, at concentrations sufficient to regulate plant
development. This has been related to improved growth and nutrient stress tolerance in
digestate growth trials.
As part of this thesis, a greenhouse pot trial with pak choi (Brassica rapa, ssp. chinensis, ‘Joy
Choi’) grown in peat was set up to evaluate the plant-nutrient dynamics and biostimulatory
effects of a digestate collected at the municipal Karpalund biogas plant in Kristianstad,
southern Sweden. The digestate was nitrified in a moving bed biofilm reactor prior to the
experiment in order to lower the NH4-N:NO3-N ratio. The study was designed with three
objectives: (i) to assess the plant availability of macro- and micronutrients in the digestate
with particular focus on P and S recovery; (ii) to assess the plant availability and effect of
added mineral P, S, magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), boron (B), and molybdenum (Mo) to
the slightly alkaline digestate; and (iii) to assess the possible biostimulatory properties of the
Karpalund digestate (i.e., the effects unrelated to the nutrient content) on plant yield and stress
The result showed that the recovery of P and S was significantly lower in the digestate
treatment than the mineral control with the same total P and S content (65% for P and 67% for
S was recovered in the above-ground parts of the plant in the digestate treatment compared to
83% for P and 95% for S in the mineral control). The shoot tissue concentrations of S (1.6 g
kg-1) and B (10 mg kg-1) in the digestate treatment were below the threshold recommended for
optimal growth. The value for P (2.8 g kg-1) was within the recommended limits but on the
verge of a possible shortage of P. Supplementing the digestate with mineral P, S, Mg, Mn,
Mo, and B resulted in sufficient plant tissue concentrations of all nutrients with the exception
of S, and in higher fresh matter yields. The supplemented digestate performed as well as the
synthetic control with respect to fresh matter yield, and outperformed it with respect to dry
matter yield. It might be speculated that the higher dry matter yield was a result of
biostimulatory compounds contained in the digestate. However, it cannot be excluded that it
was caused by higher concentrations of potassium (K) and chlorine (Cl). Finally, the digestate
was not found to alleviate plant response to nutrient stress.
To summarize, the results are promising and show that, after some modifications, the
Karpalund digestate can be used successfully as a fertilizer in soilless production of leafy

Main title:Nutrient dynamics in pak choi cultivation fertilized with biogas digestate
Subtitle:effects of non-nutrient digestate elements and amendment with mineral nutrients
Authors:Weimers, Kristina
Supervisor:Asp, Håkan
Examiner:Hultberg, Malin
Volume/Sequential designation:UNSPECIFIED
Year of Publication:2020
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:1110A Hortonomprogrammet (nedlagd) 270 HEC
Supervising department:(VH) > Department of Biosystems and Technology (from 130101)
Keywords:Biogas digestate, pak choi, Brassica rapa, ssp. chinensis, ‘Joy Choi’, greenhouse, soilless production, peat-based growing media, biostimulants, nitrification, nutrient recovery efficiency, phosphorus, sulphur
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Subjects:Crop husbandry
Deposited On:04 Jul 2022 11:25
Metadata Last Modified:08 Jul 2022 10:32

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