Nutrient and Pathogen Suppression Properties of Anaerobic Digestates from Dairy Manure and Food Waste Feedstocks

  • Brendan J. O’Brien
  • Deborah A. Neher
  • Eric D. RoyEmail author
Short Communication


Anaerobic co-digestion of dairy manure and food wastes is increasing in the New England region of the United States because of policy measures intended to divert organic materials from landfills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase renewable biogas energy production. The sustainability of this approach depends on the management and valorization of remaining solid and liquid residues (i.e., digestates) after anaerobic digestion. Few studies have characterized digestates derived from combined dairy manure and food waste feedstocks. In this study, we analyzed screw-press separated liquid and solid digestates from 6 of 26 (23%) operational full-scale facilities in New England. We quantified multiple pools of nitrogen and phosphorus in these materials, with results suggesting that, in most cases, these nutrients largely exist in forms that can be recycled via slow-release fertilization, with smaller fractions in forms more easily lost to the environment. Furthermore, we found that solid digestates can inhibit mycelial growth of a common soilborne fungal pathogen, Rhizoctonia solani, suggesting potential to manage resident soil pathogens. Capitalizing on both nutrient recycling and pathogen suppression co-benefits will likely be useful in digestate valorization efforts.

Graphic Abstract


Nitrogen Phosphorus Nutrient recovery and recycling Biogas residues Anaerobic co-digestion Digestate Pathogen suppression 



We acknowledge Adrian Wiegman, Lauren Bomeisl, Thomas R. Weicht, and Sydney Stegman for assistance with sample collection and laboratory work. We also thank Dr. Carol Adair for comments on drafts of this manuscript. This work was supported by Casella Waste Systems, Inc. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

12649_2019_906_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (249 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 248 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural ResourcesUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Plant and Soil ScienceUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA

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