The need to find and maximize the use of alternative sources of nutrients for plants and soil environment have been on the forefront of research in sustainable agriculture. These alternatives have to be affordable, accessible, reproduceable, and efficient to compete with established inorganic fertilizers while at the same time reduce any potential negative impacts on the environment. We aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of digestate fertilization in an agricultural system over a period of three years. The digestate utilized in the study consisted of animal waste-based digestates, namely pig manure digestate, chicken manure digestate, and cow manure digestate, and were compared with synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. Every year, the digestate and the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer were split applied at the rate of 90 and 80 kg N ha−1
. The soil chemical composition after three years of fertilization showed a slight decrease, significantly different nitrogen and carbon changes while phosphorus and potassium were significantly higher in the digestate treatments. The third year of digestate application showed higher grain yield than previous years and the yield from the digestate treatments were significantly different from the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. The nitrogen use efficiency for the three years was in the range of 20–25 percent in the digestate treatments, with a strong correlation between the nitrogen use efficiency and the grain yield. There were varied results in the grain quality and straw quality in the digestate and synthetic nitrogen fertilizer with no clear trend observed. Our results showed a relatively high potential of animal waste digestates over the short to mid-term use with a positive result obtained in comparison to synthetic nitrogen fertilizer under favorable climatic conditions.
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