Recovery of nutrients from the liquid fraction of digestate: Use of enriched zeolite and biochar as nitrogen fertilizers

Nazlı Pelin Kocatürk-Schumacher, Kor Zwart, Sander Bruun, Lars Stoumann Jensen, Helle Sørensen, Lijbert Brussaard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The liquid fraction after liquid/solid separation of biogas digestate has a high potential as a fertilizer due to its high nutrient concentration. However, the direct application of digestate in agricultural fields results in practical problems due to its voluminous nature. One solution to this could be to concentrate nutrients onto sorbents such as biochar or zeolites, which can subsequently be used as a fertilizer. This study investigated the ability of biochar and zeolite ‘clinoptilolite' enriched with digestate nutrients to supply nitrogen (N) when used as a fertilizer. A pot experiment with ryegrass was conducted to test the effect of a nutrient-enriched biochar and clinoptilolite by determining plant biomass growth and N uptake. This included untreated biochar and clinoptilolite as controls and two levels of N application (15 and 45 mg N per pot) each at two initial loading ratios (low and high). Nutrient-enriched biochar and clinoptilolite increased plant biomass yield (up to 1.02 and 2.39 g per pot) and N uptake (up to 11.23 and 39.94 mg N per pot) compared to the untreated sorbents treatments. Initial loading ratio had a significant effect on plant biomass response and apparent N recovery (ANR) for enriched clinoptilolite, and lower initial loading ratio improved plant growth. In contrast to clinoptilolite, higher initial loading ratio resulted in higher ANR. In conclusion, our results reveal that N released from enriched clinoptilolite and biochar could be taken up by the plants, clinoptilolite performed more effectively than biochar, and initial loading ratio affected the performance of the sorbents when used as a fertilizer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-195
JournalJournal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science
Issue number2
Early online date21 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • biogas digestate
  • clinoptilolite
  • double-pot technique
  • enriched sorbent
  • initial loading
  • slow release N fertilizer

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