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Valorization of anaerobic digestates in agriculture : Effects on Carbon and Nitrogen biogeochimical cycles

Abstract : Anaerobic digestion is a biological treatment of organic wastes which is strongly developing in France. In addition to producing energy, anaerobic digestion produces a digestate that has interesting agronomic potential. The objective of this work was thus to study the effect of applying digestates to a soil on the biogeochemical cycles of C and N, particularly the C storage potential in soil and the availability of N for plants, as well as the N2O emissions. The variation of these effects with the type of digested inputs and with the post-treatments after digestion was also studied. These studies were based on laboratory experiments, a short-term field experiment and modeling.Five types of digestates were used: three of agricultural origin and two from urban wastes coming from separate collection or not. Four raw digestates were produced by wet anaerobic digestion and underwent phase separation producing thus two digestates: liquid and solid. The other digestate was produced by dry anaerobic digestion. The solid digestates from urban origin underwent composting also while the two digestates of agricultural origin underwent reverse osmosis and drying.The digestates produced from agricultural wastes have the higher fertilizer and amending potentials. The phase separation produced a solid product which can mostly be used to maintain soil C stocks and which can be further improved by composting and a liquid product that has a greater fertilizing potential. All digestates raw, solid and liquid are characterized by a residual fraction of readily biodegradable C ranging from 23 to 91% of their organic C and related to the C content of the hot water extractable fraction. The biological stability of the digestates increases in this order: liquid 18%, the solid and the composted digestates have an interesting amending potential. The anaerobic digestates have also a high nitrogen fertilizer value, mainly related to the fraction of ammonia N initially present in the digestate; nevertheless, the high organic C/N ratios generate relatively high nitrogen organization associated with the degradation ofdigestate organic matter.A unique set of parameters was determined from the previous experimentations to simulate the C and N mineralization kinetics, after applying digestates to the soil, using the CANTIS model. This set of parameters was used to evaluate the relationship between the soil C stock and the fertilizer value of digestate and their biochemical properties.N2O emissions are higher from the raw digestates; but post-treatment by phase separation and composting reduce these emissions, while reverse osmosis and drying increase them showing thus the difficulty in associating agronomic interest and lack of environmental impacts at the same time.In the field, a high loss of mineral nitrogen is found after application of digestate, probably because of the volatilization of ammonia nitrogen. The non-composted digestates have fertilizer equivalence between 0.37 and 0.52; the origin of the digestate and phase separation didn‟t have effect on this parameter. On the other side, composting decreases by more than 80% the equivalence to nitrogen fertilizer.
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Amira Askri. Valorization of anaerobic digestates in agriculture : Effects on Carbon and Nitrogen biogeochimical cycles. Agricultural sciences. AgroParisTech, 2015. English. ⟨NNT : 2015AGPT0023⟩. ⟨tel-03117470⟩

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