Passively Aerated Composting of Straw-Rich Organic Pig Manure

  • A. Veeken
  • V. de Wilde
  • G. Szanto
  • B. Hamelers
Conference paper


Composting of animal manures using forced aeration generates high ammonia emissions. Although passively aerated composting results in lower ammonia emissions, there are concerns it may lead to high methane emissions and poor organic matter degradation. This study examined these issues using pig manure originating from organic farming systems, which could be directly composted by passive aeration because it contains high amounts of straw, which served as a bulking agent. Experiments were performed in 2-m3 reactors (2 m in height and closed walls) with a bottom grid providing vertical aeration of the compost pile. A series of experiments evaluated the effects of the compost bed structure and monthly turning of the piles on the composting process and on the emissions of ammonia, nitrous oxide and methane. Effectiveness of the composting process strongly depended on the density of the compost. Above a critical maximum density natural convection would not be initiated, aerobic degradation would fail, and anaerobic conditions would lead to emissions of methane and odorous compounds. Below a critical lower density the high rate of natural convection would keep the temperature low, thereby preventing the destruction of pathogens and weeds. Best results were observed at a density of 700 kg m−3, where both aerobic degradation and drying were adequate and temperatures were high enough to kill pathogens and weeds. Monthly turning shortened the process from 8 to 3 months, as it provided a better compost bed structure. Moreover, turning gave a more homogeneous end product. Composting did not result in significant ammonia emissions (13% of total nitrogen initially present) and nitrous oxide emissions were low (2%) for turned piles but significant (7%) for undisturbed piles. Anaerobic regions were present inside the pile but methane emissions were not observed as methane was oxidised in the top layer of the bed. Mass balance analysis indicated that the major part of nitrogen (50%) was emitted as dinitrogen, presumably a result of simultaneous nitrification-denitrification. Surprisingly, nitrification also took place at temperatures higher than 50 °C, where thermophilic methanotrophs may have been responsible for oxidation of ammonia.


Nitrous Oxide Natural Convection Total Solid Volatile Solid Compost Process 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Veeken
  • V. de Wilde
  • G. Szanto
  • B. Hamelers
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Agrotechnology and Food Sciences, Environmental TechnologyWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

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