Passively Aerated Composting of Straw-Rich Pig Manure : Effect of Compost Bed Porosity

A.H.M. Veeken, V. de Wilde, H.V.M. Hamelers

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Straw-rich manure from organic pig farming systems can be composted in passively aerated systems as the high application of straw results in a compost bed with good structure and porosity. The passively aerated composting process was simulated in one-dimensional reactors of 2 m3 for straw-rich manure with compost bed densities of 1100, 700 and 560 kg m-3. Temperature profiles over the reactor height were monitored online and ammonia emissions were measured periodically. The composition of the compost bed over the reactor height was determined at the end of the composting process. The composting process strongly depends on the density of the compost bed. At a density of 1100 kg.m-3, the porosity of the bed is too is to low to initiate natural convection, and aerobic degradation fails and anaerobic conditions may lead to emissions of methane and odorous compounds. At a density of 560 kg.m-3, the porosity of the bed is high and the high rate of natural convection will keep the temperature low thereby preventing the removal of pathogens and weeds. Best results were observed at a density of 700 kg.m-3 for which aerobic degradation and drying were adequate and temperatures were high enough to kill pathogens and weeds. On basis of the Ergun equation, which describes the airflow in porous media with internal heat generation, this corresponds to a compost bed permeability of 7x10-8 m2. It was also shown that it is possible to compost animal manures with a low C/N ratio without significant emissions of ammonia. This can be established by trapping the initial ammonia emissions in a straw filter, which is placed on top of the compost bed. Ammonia absorbed in the straw filter and in the compost bed were removed by nitrification and denitrification. The passively aerated composting system results in a compost bed which is highly heterogeneous with respect to temperature, oxygen level and its composition. It is proposed that in this way a highly diverse microbial community in the compost bed is established which can perform various microbial conversions. The extensive composting system is most promising for on-farm production of an organic fertilizer from straw-rich manure, since the costs of the process and the level of ammonia emissions were low.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-128
JournalCompost Science & Utilization
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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