Nitrogen flow in livestock waste system towards an efficient circular economy in agriculture

Waste Manag Res. 2023 Mar;41(3):701-712. doi: 10.1177/0734242X221123484. Epub 2022 Sep 21.


The race is on to achieve an important level of efficiency in the attainment of a circular economy in agriculture especially with the aim of sustainable nitrogen management. This cycle in the agricultural sector cuts across livestock farming, agriculture-induced waste generation, recycling and utilization, energy generation, crop production, ecosystem protection and environmental management through the mitigation of climate changes. In this work, we assess the process and functionalities of livestock waste generated from the piggery farm and their combinations with other by-products such as biochar and ash in comparison with mineral fertilization as sources of nitrogen applied in agricultural soil. The experiment was performed in a controlled environment with wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) grown in a neutral and an acidic soil. Pig manure was used as the primary feedstock, fed and processed to biogas and nutrient-rich digestate by the anaerobic digestion process. The results revealed that the co-amendments of pig manure digestate with biochar and ash had complimentary positive effect on measured indices such as mobile potassium, phosphorus, biomass yield and nitrogen use efficiency. The mineral nitrogen fertilizer significantly induced carbon dioxide emissions from day 35 when compared to emissions from the organic amendments. In contrast, the organic amendments influenced nitrous oxide emissions from the onset till day 30 before flattening out. The individual combination of pig manure digestate with biochar and ash had a negative influence on enzymatic activity (dehydrogenase). Soil microbial biomass carbon was induced across all treatments in both soil types. Pig manure digestate + ash and pig manure digestate had 32.1 and 48.8% soil microbial biomass increase in neutral soil and acidic soil, respectively. Overall, the processing and application of single-use amendment or in combination with biochar and ash holds huge potential in the optimization of nitrogen and carbon efficiency towards sustainable soil management via improving soil quality, carbon sequestration and climate change.

Keywords: Pig manure; anaerobic digestate; biochar; greenhouse gas; sustainable agriculture; wood ash.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture* / methods
  • Animals
  • Charcoal
  • Ecosystem
  • Fertilizers / analysis
  • Livestock*
  • Manure
  • Minerals
  • Nitrogen / analysis
  • Nitrogen Cycle*
  • Soil
  • Sustainable Development*
  • Swine


  • biochar
  • Charcoal
  • Fertilizers
  • Manure
  • Minerals
  • Nitrogen
  • Soil