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Bioresource Technology 42 (1992) 103-111

Loss of Nitrogenous Compounds during Composting

of Animal Wastes
O. Martins
Holzmann Umwelttechnik GmbH, An der Gehespits, 6078 Neu-Isenburg, Germany


T. Dewes*
Institut fiir Mikrobiologie und Landeskultur, -Mikrobiologie-, der Justus-Liebig-Universit~it, Senckenbergstrasse 3,
6300 Giessen, Germany
(Received 10 November 1991; accepted 23 December 1991 )

Abstract NH 3 emission which is important from an environ-

mental perspective.
The nitrogen losses occurring during composting of
mixtures of straw and different liquid manures Key words: Animal wastes, decomposition, nitro-
(poultry, pig, cattle, and mixtures thereof) over a gen emissions, nitrogen leaching.
period of 98 to 114 days have been determined.
During the composting period between 9"6 and
19.6% of the initial total nitrogen was lost as INTRODUCTION
leachates. Most of the leaching (> 70%) occurred
within the first 10 days of the composting period. Losses of nitrogenous compounds during decom-
Consequently, large amounts of nitrogen are position of animal wastes occur on the one hand
carried out of the compost with the leachate over through emission of gases such as N H 3 and NOx
this period largely as a result of the high nitrogen and on the other hand as liquid in the form of
concentrations. The greatest proportion of nitrogen bound nitrogen, NH~- and small amounts of NO 3.
in the leachate (76.5-97.8%) was ammonium- Although both are of ecological relevance, the
nitrogen. economics should also be taken into considera-
The greatest nitrogen losses, between 46.8 and tion, at least when the processing of the animal
77"4% of the initial total nitrogen content, were wastes occurs on the farm. In this case the farmer
caused by gaseous emissions in the form of NH3 as should take into account the nutrients contained
well as small amounts (< 5%) of NO x. The main within the manure when fertilizers are applied.
factors which influenced the level of gaseous emis- Loss of NH 3 starts immediately after the animal
sions were the total nitrogen content at the begin- wastes are excreted. Consequently the air within
ning of the composting period, the temperature of the stall as well as the vapour plume rising from
the compost material and heap rotation (turning). storage, as well as from the fertilized fields, all
The greatest nitrogen losses were found in the contain NH 3 (Kowalewsky, 1981; D6hler, 1987;
N-rich poultry- and pig-straw mixtures which Oldenburg, 1989). The amount of NH 3 emissions
showed obvious temperature increases up to 40°C is by no means negligible. Buijsman et al. (1987)
during the first few days of the composting period. estimated that each year in Europe 6-4 × 106 t
A high pH value (pH> 8) promoted the gaseous NH 3 are emitted, of which 81% is produced as a
result of animal husbandry. New investigations
*To whom correspondence should be addressed at Macken- based on updated data suggest even greater
ser Stral3e 36, 3354 Dassel, Germany. amounts (Isermann, 1990). It is held to be almost
Bioresource Technology 0960-8524/92/S05.00 © 1992 Elsevier Science Publishers Ltd, England. Printed in
Great Britain
104 O. Martins, T. Dewes

certain that these place terrestrial and aquatic nical conditions, as well as quantifying the amount
ecosystems under stress (Roelofs, 1986; of nitrogen lost through leaching. With these
Schuurkes, 1986; Van der Eerden et al., 1990). results it is intended to produce a nitrogen
The most important factors which influence the balance sheet for the aerobic decomposition of
emission of NH3 from animal excrements are pH animal excrement over a period from 98 to 114
value, NH~-/NH 3 equilibrium, mineralisations days.
intensity of organic N-compounds, C/N ratio,
temperature, dry matter content and wind speed.
Therefore differences can be expected in the level METHODS
of the NH 3 emissions from both solid and liquid
manure systems which are dependent on the tech- Procedure
nical system available for handling the manure as Two pig, three cattle and three poultry liquid
well as on the kind of animal, feeding, etc. manures, with dry matter (DM) contents of 7-4 to
In the case of liquid manure, NH 3 losses of the 17.2%, as well as a mixture of all three in the ratio
order of 1.4% to 56"3% were measured during of 1:1:1 (DM 12.2%) were separately placed into
storage (35 to 180 days) alone (Dewes et al., a stirrer (500 litres) and mixed, together with
1990). Further losses occur during the spreading chopped straw (length c. 5-10 cm, 80% DM), for
of the manure. According to D/Shier (1990) these 8 min to produce a homogenous manure-straw
losses amount to 3-67% of the total amount of mixture. The amount of straw added depended on
NHJ- applied (i.e., the amount still present at the the DM content of each manure slurry and
end of the storage period). Investigations con- totalled 2.1-4.7% (w/w). The mixtures (CM =
ducted by Kirchmann and Witter (1989) based on cattle manure, PM= pig manure, PoM = poultry
models using solid manure showed that, depend- manure, MM = mixed manure) were placed into a
ing on the addition of straw and the C/N ratio, composter in triangular heaps with a height of
gaseous N-losses amounted to 9-44% of the Ntota 1 0.6-0.8 m. Self heating then occurred in these
over 200 days. The degree of variation in the NH 3 containers. As the heaps were placed into the
emission rates for both solid and liquid manures composter layers of chopped straw totaling c. 2%
are unusually large. It is generally assumed, how- (w/w) were added. The total amounts of manure
ever, that losses over comparable storage times slurry and straw-DM as well as the amount of
are greater for solid than for liquid manure. manure-straw mixture set out as compost are
The aerobic decomposition of solid manure, given in Table 1.
which generally aims to achieve a rapid break- The heaps were turned between three and
down of organic substances and a hygienic effect seven limes during the composting period. This
from self-heating, is promoted by heap rotation occurred whenever the majority of the five
and should lead to the fastest NH 3 emission rates. measurement sites indicated that the compost
Additionally leaching always occurs, which also temperature had fallen below 30°C. Samples were
carries nitrogen out of the compost. Owing to a taken for analysis at the beginning and end of the
law passed in 1986 (Wasserhaushaltsgesetz - - a composting period. In order to prevent the outer
German law for the protection of water bodies) it edges of the compost from drying out and to test
is becoming increasingly common in Germany to the possibility of recycling leachate, the leachates
discuss the question of whether or not the were regularly spayed back over the compost dur-
nitrogen content, in particular the NO 3 portion, ing the composting period (Fig. 2). The applica-
of manure leachate poses a danger to the ground tion times were dependent upon compost
water supply. temperature as well as on the water content of the
From an ecological view point liquid and solid outer edges of the heap. When insufficient
manure must be seen in a new light. Although leachate was available, additional dung slurries
basically solid manure is useful for the fertilization from the same kind of animal (DM < 4.2%) were
of farmland it is necessary to improve estimates of used to irrigate the compost. For the pig, poultry
the nitrogen losses from storage and spreading of and mixture composts the first irrigation occurred
manure. after 9 to 14 days of composting, but only after 26
This investigation is considered to be a step in to 41 days for the cattle compost. The total
this direction. The NH3/NO x emission rates from amount of leached water and dung slurries used
different combinations of cattle, pig and poultry for irrigation ranged between 193 and 507 litres/
dung heaps were determined under semi-tech- tonne initial weight.
Loss of N during composting of animal wastes 105

Table 1. Compositionof the manure-strawmixturesand the frequencyof turning(rotation)

Treatment Amount DM Additional straw FM of the manure-straw Number of
of of (DM) in % of mixtures at start of rotations
manure manure manure (FM) composting
(kg) (%) (kg)

PoM 1 2075 13"9 5'7 2219 6

PoM 2 1350 8"2 7'0 1468 6
PoM 6 1751 17.2 4.2 1842 7
CM 3 2041 12.3 5.2 2173 6
CM 7 1770 10.9 5.6 1894 5
CM 8 1539 8.5 6.1 1657 6
PM 4 1729 12.8 5.6 1849 4
PM 9 1205 7.4 7.8 1322 4
MM 10 1466 12.2 6.7 1588 3

DM = dry matter; FM = fresh matter; PoM = poultry manure; CM = cattle manure; PM = pig manure; MM = mixed manure.

ceiling fort
oxid fan
gaseous emissions
PVC-~entiotion pipe

If o,
- onolyzer
PE-tent temperoture meosuring points

composting basin
droin pipe

for collecting PE - foi
Fig. 1. Experimentalset-up.

Construction of the composter and tent (Fig. 1) Nm3/h due to formation of condensation on the
The composter was constructed from crossed inside tent walls caused by a high relative humid-
wooden slats with a base area of 3.76 m × 2.40 m. ity. Ceiling fans provided a steady air circulation
The base and sides of the composter were lined within the tent.
with polyethylene plastic to prevent water
seepage. A drain pipe was built into the lowest Measurement and analysis methods
point so that the leachate could be collected in a
container and measured and from which samples Temperature
for analysis could be taken. In order to be able to The heap temperature was measured at hourly
calculate the N-balance the compost material was intervals at five sites using thermoelements (Fig.
weighed at the beginning and at the end of the 1). The data were recorded on a datalogger for
composting period. later transfer to a PC.
The gases released from the compost were
trapped in tents (of polyethylene plastic) erected NH3/NOx emissions
over the composter. With the aid of an axial fan The gas emission samples from each heap were
the air was pumped through a PVC pipe at an collected by drawing samples through a small
initial flow rate of 174 Nm3/h at the beginning of perforated plastic tube inserted into the ventila-
the composting period and later increased to 289 tion pipe. The NH 3 and NOx content were deter-
106 O. Martins, T. Dewes

mined at least twice daily using a ,I, ¢ ¢ $ J, ¢

chemiluminescence analyser (model PN-1H, 200.

'~ '~ ' '"~LSUU ' ~' 'I 5,"
IMES, Wiesloch, Germany). Background con- o

centrations which had to be taken into account 7s: 25 ~

because of the neighbouring stalls and composters
were determined inside a tent placed over an v 5o. 50 ~

empty composter. The data for each series of

$ = rotated
measurements were then corrected using these u 25-
background levels. odded liquid

leached liquid

Compost and leachate analysis

1500- ,ii i i L-2;- -;L;;,_:,.'
The samples were deep frozen immediately after 9"
collection and transported to the laboratory in an 100 o.
ice chest. Before the following analyses were car- I,
ried out the leachate samples were allowed to 200

melt, while the compost samples were ground in a

frozen state: 100 [ ~ ] N-oddition
I~ N -N
-- Dry matter content (DM): at 105°C to con- Z NH4-N
stant weight 0 20 40 60 80 100
-- Total nitrogen (Ntotal): Kjeldahl, modified by doys

Cope (Bremner & Mulvaney, 1982)

Fig. 2. Amount of leaching and nitrogen release during the
- Ammonium-nitrogen (NH;-N): Distillation
decomposition of poultry manure (PoM 2) as a function of
into H2SO 4 and titration with NaOH irrigation degree, nitrogen addition and rotation frequency.
according to Bremner ( 1965).
-- Nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N): Colorimetric
determination using UV absorption as
cases investigated, most of the leaching (> 70%)
Dewes and Schmitt (1990). Compost
had already occurred within the first ten days,
samples were mixed into distilled water at a
before the start of irrigation, and is independent
ratio of 1:10. The organic content was pre-
of the addition of water. This agrees with our own
cipitated out using ZnSO4 solution (7.2%)
investigations with cattle manure heaps in the field
and Na2B407"10 H=O solution (5%) and
as well as with the experiences of K6hnlein and
separated using centrifugation.
Vetter (1953). With increasing length of the corn-
-- Organic carbon compounds (Corg): Colori-
posting period, leaching generally only occurred
metric after wet ashing with KzCr207
(Schlichting & Blume, 1966). after the heap was rotated. Leachates were no
longer detectable after only 34 days (PoM 6) and
for up to 72 days (PoM 1 and PoM 2). A large
amount of nitrogen was removed due to leaching,
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION particularly in the first few days while the rate of
leaching was high. The highest Ntota I concentra-
During the composting period nitrogen losses tion, averaging 908-8 mg/100 ml, was measured
occurred not only through leaching but also as for poultry manure (808-1054 mg/100 ml), fol-
gaseous emissions in the form of NH3 and NOx. lowed by the poultry/pig/cattle mixture with 745
Addition of nitrogen into the compost material mg/100 ml, pig manure with an average of 561.2
occurred as a result of the regular irrigation of the rag/100 ml (557-565 rag/100 ml) and cattle
heaps using leachate and dung slurries. manure with 384"4 mg/100 ml (352-433 mg/100
An array of interdependencies exist between, ml, cf. Table 2). It is therefore apparent that the
firstly, the amount of leachate, its nitrogen con- Ntota I content in the initial material determines the
tent, and the proportions of different nitrogen maximum NtotaI concentration of the leachate and
fractions and secondly, the type of material used, therefore to a large extent the amount of Ntota I it
the composting period, the degree of irrigation, carries with it. This varied from 741 g/t to 2815
and the frequency of rotation. Several of these g/t (Table 3). During a 98-114-day composting
interdependencies are illustrated using heap PoM period between 9"6% (MM 10) and 19-6% (PoM
2 in Fig. 2 as an example. Here, as in all other 2) of the sum of the initial nitrogen content and
Loss o f N during cornposting o f a n i m a l wastes 107

Table 2. Amount of leachate and irrigation water and concentrations of total nitrogen, ammonia and nitrate nitrogen

Treatment Leachate Ntot, t NH~-N NO£ -N Irrigation Ntotat

(litre / tonne) ~ (mg/ l O0 ml) (mg/ l O0 ml) (mg/ l O0 ml) water (mg/ l O0 ml)

Max. Min. Max. Min. Max. Min. (litre/tonne) ~

PoM 1 292.9 863-9 155.5 772.3 70-7 7-3 0"6 292"9 824.0
PoM 2 324.9 808.3 386'2 705"5 210"9 6-2 0"8 425"7 685.2
PoM 6 278-5 1054-2 818.2 959"5 719"8 2"7 1.0 302-9 1010.9
CM 3 225.0 352"3 275.8 260"3 148"5 3"9 0-6 225"0 269"7
CM 7 278.2 433.3 267.3 369"7 121.0 6.2 0"5 192"7 398"9
CM 8 266.7 367.5 241.1 277.2 85.4 5.7 0'7 202.2 348"0
PM 4 295-3 557"4 235-3 462.1 7'97 6"6 0"9 405.6 439.5
PM 9 313.9 564.9 288.0 479.2 161"0 4.9 0-7 506'8 511.0
MM 10 165.0 744.9 450.5 649.4 191.9 7.8 0.3 352"6 664'7

"litre/tonne initial mass.

Table 3. Total nitrogen (Nt,,tal) balance

Treatment N,,,,,/ in compost Nr,,tu/ in Nt,,r,l in N~ot~1emitted Error'

(g/tonne)" leachate irrigation water (g/tonne) ~ (%)
(g/tonne)" (g/ tonne) ~
Start End Measured Calculated b

PoM 1 10 657 3452 2 354 2 508 7 371 7 359 0.2

PoM2 9272 2569 2384 2918 7587 7237 4.8
PoM6 11684 2854 2815 3062 7399 9077 18.5
CM 3 5 601 1 859 741 607 2 556 3 608 29-2
CM 7 5679 2 448 1 110 769 2 961 2 890 2.5
CM 8 5 112 1 932 928 609 2485 2 861 13.1
PM4 8038 3493 1532 1783 4263 4796 11.1
PM 9 7 663 3 570 1 679 2 590 4 163 5 004 16.8
MM 10 9 727 3033 1 155 2 344 6 509 7 883 17.4

"g/tonne initial mass.

/'NtotaI emitted = N t o t a I in compost at start + N t o t a I irrigation water - N t o t a I leachate - Ntota I in compost at the end.
'Difference Nt,,t,,i-measured and Nl,,tat-calculated in % of Nt,,arcalculated.

the amount added by irrigation was drained off as similar finding by Ott et al. (1983) as well as with
leachate. our own investigations under farm conditions
Initially, the composition of the nitrogen con- (Dewes et al., 1991). The latter also showed that
tent of the leachate was similar to that of the liquid with an increasing composting period the Ntota 1
manures used for preparing the compost mix- content of the leachate decreased significantly. In
tures. The largest proportion (76.5-97.8% of this study the Ntota I concentration also fell by
Ntotal) w a s NH~--N. The maximum NH~--N con- 22-82% within 24-49 days for each treatment.
centration varied between 260-3 and 959"5 mg/ The NH~--N concentration also steadily sank, in
100 ml (Table 2) whereas poultry leachates some cases, to 9% of the maximum concentration.
showed the highest NH~--N content due to the After a longer composting period the measured
high ammonium concentration in the initial nitrogen contents of the leachates showed no clear
poultry slurries, followed in decreasing order by differences between the different types of manure
the mixture, pig, and cattle leachates. The second regardless of the Ntota I content of the initial
largest fraction was organically-bound nitrogen. material. At the same time a small, insignificant
In view of the current discussion in Germany over enrichment of NO3-N in the leachate was
the risk of contamination of ground-water sup- measured, up to a maximum of 2.2% of the Ntota 1
plies by manure leachates it is particularly note- content (CM 7 after 22 composting days). As
worthy that the NOy-N fraction of the total could be expected, the changes in the N H ; - and
nitrogen content of the leachate at any time was NO3-N concentrations in the leachate reflected
extremely small (0.1-2.2%) and, independent of the corresponding values of the compost material.
the type of animal dung. This result agrees with a With increasing duration of the composting
108 O. Martins, T. Dewes

Table 4. Dry matter (DM) content, nitrogen concentration (Ntotal, N O 3 - N , NH~-N) and C/N ratio for the manure-straw
mixtures at the start and the end of composting period

Treatment Duration of DM Ntot~I NH~-N NO~-N C/N

composting (%) (mg]l O0g FM)
PoM 1 0 20.5 1065.7 760.7 a 8-6
114 52.2 1493.3 298-9 43-6 9-5
PoM 2 0 17.2 927.2 672-8 --a 9.9
107 40.2 1228.5 252.3 36.9 11.1
PoM 6 0 21.5 1168.4 841.5 1.3 7.1
105 61.2 1468.5 348.1 30.6 10.6
CM 3 0 16.5 560.1 311.9 2.1 14.4
103 29.4 832.7 102.0 31.4 13.4
CM 7 0 16.1 567.9 313.9 2.3 12.9
107 33.9 914.6 177.3 29.4 12.3
CM 8 0 14.1 511.2 321.2 --" 13.2
109 31.6 842.6 124.4 29.3 14.7
PM 4 0 18.8 803.8 543.7 --" 12.2
106 34.9 1149.1 224.1 85.1 10-6
PM 9 0 16.6 766.3 524.5 --" 10.0
104 33.1 1131.7 239.4 75.9 10.9
MM 10 0 21.1 972.7 633.8 --~ 9"5
98 32.1 915.5 208.7 13.5 11.4

F M = Fresh matter.
aNot detectable.

period a decrease in the NH~--N concentration compost with the leachates. When liquid manures
together with an increase in the NO 3 content were additionally used for irrigation, the amount
could be observed (Table 4) which is an indication of nitrogen and carbon added exceeded that lost.
of a regulated, aerobic, composting process. To this extent it could be shown that it is possible
Through the return of the leachates for irriga- to recycle organically-contaminated leachates,
tion purposes it was possible to totally dispose of which is a particularly interesting alternative with
all the leachate for all the manure types with the no further disposal methods required. At the same
exception of the cattle composts CM 7 and CM 8 time, the return of the leachates increased the
(cf. Table 2). This practice puts less stress on the concentration of substances within the compost.
environment and makes good use of the leachates. This can be seen for nitrogen and carbon in Table
In several cases (PoM 2, PoM 6, PM 4, PM 9, MM 4 which fists the Ntota~contents and the C/N ratios.
10) insufficient leaching occurred and due to high A nutrient enrichment like this during decomposi-
compost temperatures and high evaporation rates tion of organic matter is often to be found (e.g.,
additional slurries had to be used for irrigation to Levi-Minzi et al., 1986). However, it should not
prevent the outer edges of the heap from drying be overlooked that this enrichment is due in parti-
out. For the two cases (CM 7 and CM 8) where a cular to the loss of water during the composting
complete return of all the drained leachates over period which leads to an increase in the relative
the period of the experiment was not possible the concentrations and nutrients.
water content at the beginning of the composting The greatest nitrogen losses are caused not
period was already high with values of through leaching but rather through gaseous emis-
83.9-85-9%. This decreased only slowly due to an sions. From the data presented in Table 3 it can be
initially low degree of self heating and a slow rate calculated that between 46.8% (CM 3) and 77-4%
of dehydration. Due to these factors the heaps (PoM 2) of the initial nitrogen (including that
were irrigated relatively late (after 28 to 40 tom- added by irrigation during the composting period)
posting days) and with only small amounts of is emitted in the form of NH 3 and NOx and by far
liquid. the greatest amount consists of NH 3 (Fig. 3). The
The previously washed-out contents, in parti- gaseous nitrogen loss is therefore of the same
cular nitrogen and carbon, were returned to the order as that shown by Schuchardt (1990), Vogt-
Loss of N during composting of animal wastes 109

Heop 6, poultry manure (PoM 6) the relatively nitrogen-poor pig and cattle manures
$i / $ $ $ $ $ with Ntota I contents averaging 7851 g/t
~. ~ i! : " :: (7663-8038 g/t) and 5464 g/t (5112-5679 g/t)
I I disproportionally small amounts of 4213 g/t and
~ 400- c~ 3120 g/t were emitted. However, the relative loss
30 was still very high, with average values of 53.6%
and 57.1% respectively. The difference between
I 200-
Z the nitrogen losses measured with the gas analyser
--- Tilmperoture and those estimated on the basis of chemical
~x3-N analyses of the compost amounted to 0.2-29-2%
(Table 3). This discrepancy can be explained by

unavoidable errors occurring during the analyses,
Heop 4, pig monure (PM 4) but particularly through the difficulties of main-
taining a reliably constant flow-rate with the axial
fan. Since this fan was installed on the outside wall
• ',
' ' the flow rate was affected by the wind and this
"~" 400-
"" ' :'"t
resulted in considerable variation for which it was
only possible to make manual corrections during
~ 200- the day. It must also be borne in mind that this
,I, rot~ experiment was carried out on a semi-technical
°-° T~tuce scale which creates much greater difficulties in
t--'-i NPI-N
O- i
20 40
80 '$00
, maintaining controlled conditions than in the
doys laboratory.
As with the nitrogen loss through leaching, the
Heop 3, cottle monure (CM 3) gaseous nitrogen emissions were also irregular
600- over time. Moreover for the nitrogen-rich poultry-
500- and pig-manures there was a clear dependence on
i ""'" I the heap temperature, which in turn was in-
400- ,°
fluenced by heap rotation (Fig. 3). The first clear
2100. :"'... : ", :'., NH3/NO x losses occurred with poultry manure
I 200, .,f°'" ,.. j
after four or five days and ran parallel to the
increase in temperature which, especially in the
outer edges of the heap, reached 40°C. These
- _ ~ - m m ; - .

6" ' '~' ' "4" " '~" " '~" ' ',60' " results agree with those of Muck and Richards
doys (1983) who, through a somewhat different
Fig. 3. G a s e o u s n i t r o g e n l o s s e s ( N H 3 - N , N O x - N ) d u r i n g approach, were able to determine that the level of
t h e d e c o m p o s i t i o n o f pig, p o u l t r y a n d c a t t l e m a n u r e s w i t h N H 3 emissions from animal excrement within the
dependence on time and rotation frequency. range of 5-25°C is strongly temperature depen-
dent. After the first rotation, which occurred after
7-10 days, relatively high gaseous-N losses from
mann and Ott (1980) as well as Baader et al. the pig manure were also detected. Rotation
(1976), although much higher than in the study by caused a homogenization of the compost, but
Kirchmann and Witter (1989). more importantly loosened up the heap which
The most important factors which appeared to allowed a better aeration. This led to a stimulation
influence gaseous nitrogen losses were the Ntota ! of the aerobic microorganisms which raised the
concentration at the start of the composting temperature at some measurement sites up to
period, the compost temperature and heap rota- 60°C. Also the addition of unstabilized C- and
tion (Fig. 3).The poultry manures had an average N-compounds through irrigation may have stimu-
initial Ntota I content of 10538 g/t (9272-11 684 lated the microbiological decomposition. For the
g/t), while the mixture had an average of 9727 g/t cattle manure a slow temperature increase
which resulted in correspondingly high N-emis- occurred, and only after repeated rotations did
sion rates averaging 7452 g/t and 6509 g/t the temperature rise sufficiently high to provide a
respectively; these correspond to N-losses averag- hygienic effect. This gradual temperature increase
ing 69.2% and 59"6% respectively (Table 3). From was probably a result of the high initial water con-
110 O. Martins, T. Dewes

tent (Table 4). The nitrogen emissions which did case where the heaps are protected from rain
occur, although in comparably small amounts, water, put it to use for rewetting the compost, or
were probably the result of increased gas alternatively, as with liquid manure and urine, it
exchange caused by rotation. can be used as fertilizer. Although it is possible to
Protein degradation also increased, presumably treat such wastewater this is not particularly use-
as a result of microbial stimulation which ful as long as there are other more environ-
increased the NH~- concentration in the compost. mentally-sound alternatives.
This in turn explains the high pH value which However, NH 3 emissions of the order
initially was greater than pH 8.0 in all treatments measured here probably have a much greater
with no appreciable differences. High pH values ecological relevance. From the data it appears that
and high temperatures according to Loehr et al. high priority should be given to the formulation of
(1973) alter the solution equilibrium between prevention strategies. Without doubt the value of
NH~- and NH 3 in favour of NH 3. Therefore com- animal wastes as fertilizers can be influenced
posts which are in a state of strongly aerobic within limits through suitable preparation tech-
decomposition and which are very N-rich should niques. Since on the farm, in particular, pos-
have high emissions in the form of NH 3. The pro- sibilities exist for the meaningful and also basically
portion of NOx remained under 5% (cfi Fig. 3) ecologically acceptable use of animal wastes as
throughout this study and is therefore relatively fertilizer, an appeal should be made to the legisla-
unimportant. ture not to hinder the appropriate handling of
Due to the decreasing concentration of NH~- animal excrements. This in turn obliges scientists
and an increase in nitrification with time, the and farmers not only to show effective pos-
gaseous N-losses in all treatments clearly fell with sibilities for the reduction of, in particular, NH 3
increasing composting period. In particular for emissions but also to bring them into practice. In
poultry and pig manure it was apparent that heap these must be counted, amongst others, those
rotation in the more advanced compost stages led preparation techniques that not so much promote
to more obvious temperature increases but only aerobic composting and humification of the
barely increased the N-emissions. After a com- manure but, rather, work at lower temperatures.
posting period of 3 months in each treatment the However, the addition of natural materials with
choking smell of NH3 was replaced by the typical large adsorptive surfaces (e.g., bentonite) also
earthy smell of ripe compost (geosmine). However appears to be useful. A suitable reduction in the
the clumpy structure of the compost was unsatis- use of protein-rich animal feeds could also be
factory as a result of the comparatively high water expected to lead to a reduction in the amount of
content still present at the end of the experiment. NH 3 released. When the processing of animal
A somewhat weaker irrigation would probably wastes occurs in a central plant it is absolutely
have had a positive effect in this respect. In total necessary to remove the ammonia from the waste
the water content was reduced from an initial gases in order to reduce the impact on the
78-5-85.9% to 38"8-70-6% (Table 4). Given that environment. Physico-chemical, as well as bio-
in this experiment the leachates were returned to logical methods are now available to achieve this
the compost, water loss could only occur through and these are now being tested under practical
evaporation. This had a considerable effect on the conditions.
reduction in mass, which on average amounted to
79.6% (76"9-81-0%) for the poultry composts,
74.6% (70-7-77.7%) for the cattle composts, and ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
72.8% (72.1-73.6%) for the pig and mixed-
manure composts. The authors would like to thank Messrs Dycker-
From the results presented it is obvious that hoff & Widman, Munic; Preussag AG, Hannover
during the composting of animal excrements the and Holzmann Umwelttechnik GmbH, Neu-Isen-
greatest amount of N is lost as NH 3 emissions burg for their support and also Dr Grand, Mr
(here 46.8-77.4% of Ntota I within 98-114 days). Heinl and Mr Meier.
The N-losses occurring through leaching are of
considerably less importance (here 9.6-19.6% of
N,ot~). In addition for this source of N-losses there
is the possibility of complete recycling since it is Baader, W., Schuchardt, F. & Sonnenberg, H. (1976). Unter-
possible to capture the leachates and either, in the suchungen zur Entwicklung eines technischen Verfahrens
Loss of N during composting of animal wastes 111

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