Potential short-term losses of N 2O and N 2 from high concentrations of biogas digestate in arable soils
Biogas digestate (BD) is increasingly used as organic fertilizer, but has a high potential for NH 3 losses. Its proposed injection into soils as a countermeasure has been suggested to promote the generation of N 2O, leading to a potential trade-off. Furthermore, the effect of high nutrient concentrations on N 2 losses as they may appear after injection of BD into soil has not yet been evaluated. Hence, we performed an incubation experiment with soil cores in a helium–oxygen atmosphere to examine the influence of soil substrate (loamy sand, clayey silt), water-filled pore space (WFPS; 35, 55, 75 %) and application rate (0, 17.6 and 35.2 mL BD per soil core, 250 cm 3) on the emission of N 2O, N 2 and CO 2 after the usage of high loads of BD. To determine the potential capacity for gaseous losses, we applied anaerobic conditions by purging with helium for the last 24 h of incubation. Immediate N 2O and N 2 emissions as well as the N 2 ∕ (N 2O+N 2) product ratio depended on soil type and increased with WFPS, indicating a crucial role of soil gas diffusivity for the formation and emission of nitrogenous gases in agricultural soils. However, emissions did not increase with the application rate of BD. This is probably due to an inhibitory effect of the high NH 4+ content of BD on nitrification. Our results suggest a larger potential for N 2O formation immediately following BD injection in the fine-textured clayey silt compared to the coarse loamy sand. By contrast, the loamy sand showed a higher potential for N 2 production under anaerobic conditions. Our results suggest that short-term N losses of N 2O and N 2 after injection may be higher than probable losses of NH 3 following surface application of BD.