Harvest time and ensilage suitability of giant reed and miscanthus for bio-methane production and characterization of digestate for agronomic use
Department of Agricultural, Food, Environmental and Animal Sciences, University of Udine, Via delle Scienze, 206, IT33100 Udine, Italy
In many countries, biogas plants are mainly fed by livestock slurry and dedicated crops, including maize, which still represents one of the main energy crops utilized. Many concerns are now arising on environmental impact due to the high water consumption, chemical fertilizer and pesticide requirements and on adverse effect of maize as energy crop on the price of food and feed commodities. For these reasons two perennial crops, in particular miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus) and giant reed (Arundo donax L.), were cultivated at very low input and evaluated for their bio-methane yield at different harvest times and ensilage suitability, in a north-eastern area of Italy. Moreover, considering the agronomic use of the obtained digestate as fertilizer, this has been characterized by the content of heavy metals. Both multi-annual crops have proved highly productive in biomass especially with a harvest time in autumn, at which a satisfactory completion of the silage process without additives was observed. Conversely, bio-methane yield per hectare were not satisfactory with respect to the reference crops such as maize. The low BMP attained showed the main bottleneck of the methanisation of ensiled giant-reed and miscanthus, which is represented by fiber composition with high degree of lignification. The simulation use of digestate obtained as fertilizer in vulnerable areas, could lead to slightly exceed the levels allowed by the legislation of some European countries with regard of heavy metals as Cu, Zn and Cd.