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Nutrient loads of small-scale swine manure composting to groundwater and its prevention by covering: a case study

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Small-scale composting is applied to recycle manure and biomass around the globe. Piles frequently site outside near field where bio-waste comes or compost goes within developing rural regions. However, little equipment or policy besides cover of common materials addressed concerns about its exposure to rainfall and subsequent leachate towards groundwater. In addition, little is known about its nutrient load to groundwater and covers’ effect on nutrient unloading. Differently covered swine manure piles were composted outdoors with exposure to rain, then columns consisted of resultant compost of varying maturing age and soil were leached by simulated rainfall. Leachate TN, NH4 +-N, NO3 -N, TP, and DP were modeled by regression analysis, and further, integral of quadratic curve or nutrient load index (NLI) was designated as proxy for nutrient load. Log response ratio was employed to qualify covers’ effect on nutrient unloading. This case raised higher concern about leachate NH4 +-N than NO3 -N for former’s lower category in groundwater quality standard. The integrated NLIs or general nutrient load for six intervals, averagely divided from composting day of 60–120, decreased by 31, 37, 45, 56, and 73 % consecutively. Covers could unload nutrient to underground and function better to prevent P than N from leaching. Capabilities of piles covered by rice straw (CR) and soil (CS) to unload respectively are 77 and 72 % of by film (CF).

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The work was supported by the National Key Technology R&D Program in the 11th Five-Year Plan of China (2010BAD03B03). The authors appreciate questions and suggestions about revision from reviewer.

Author information

Correspondence to Yucheng Chen.

Additional information


• Nutrient load of small composting pile to groundwater was quantified by Nutrient Load Index (NLI).

• Capacity of pile cover to unload nutrient was quantified by log response ratio.

• NH4 +-N has relatively higher leaching potential than NO3 -N.

• Higher concern about leachate NH4 +-N than NO3 -N was raised.

• Pile cover unloaded nutrient of leachate to groundwater more effectively for P than N.

Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Cheng, J., Qiao, J., Chen, Y. et al. Nutrient loads of small-scale swine manure composting to groundwater and its prevention by covering: a case study. Environ Sci Pollut Res 22, 15646–15655 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-015-4705-2

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  • Swine manure
  • Compost leachate
  • Groundwater
  • Composting cover
  • Nutrient load effect quantification