Measuring ammonia and odours emissions during full field digestate use in agriculture

Massimo Zilio, Ambrogio Pigoli, Bruno Rizzi, Gabriele Geromel, Erik Meers, Oscar Schoumans, Andrea Giordano, Fabrizio Adani*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The use of digestate in agriculture represents an opportunity for reducing the use of synthetic fertilizers while promoting nutrient and organic matter recycling, i.e. contributing to a circular economy. However, some environmental impacts could result from digestate use, with particular reference to N emissions, which can contribute to particulate matter formation in the atmosphere. So, correct digestate spreading methods need to be tested to reduce ammonia emission and, possibly, also to avoid annoyance to the inhabitants. In this work a digestate from organic wastes was used as a fertilizer by its injection at 15 cm, in comparison with a synthetic one (urea) for three consecutive years in open fields, measuring ammonia and odours emission. On average, the ammonia emission from digestate was of 25.6 ± 9.4 kg N Ha−1 (11.6% ± 4 of Total Ammonia Nitrogen - TAN - dosed), while urea emitted 24.8 ± 8.3 kg N Ha−1 (13.4% ± 4.5 of TAN dosed). The injected digestate also emitted less odour than urea (601 ± 531 and 1767 ± 2221 OU m−2 h−1, respectively), being ammonia coming from urea hydrolysis responsible for odour productions. The different N fertilizers did not lead to differences in crop yields, i.e. 18.5 ± 2.9 Mg grain Ha−1 and 17.4 ± 1.2 Mg grain Ha−1 for digestate and urea respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Article number146882
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2021


  • Ammonia emissions
  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Digestate fertilization
  • Odour emissions
  • Open field measurements
  • Organic wastes


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