Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: The suitability of anaerobic digesters on organic farms
Author: Clements, Laura
ISNI:       0000 0004 2748 034X
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2012
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Please try the link below.
Access from Institution:
Food and energy security are two key environmental challenges currently faced by mankind. The principles behind organic farming are to promote environmental sustainability; however within the organic standards the use of renewable energy is only a suggested method with which to achieve this. If organic farmers can successfully utilise anaerobic digesters, they could contribute towards the provision of both food and energy security using one holistic system. Within this thesis, the suitability of anaerobic digesters on organic farms was explored using methods from ecological, sociological and environmental sciences. This enabled both the practical and theoretical issues behind the question of whether it is suitable for anaerobic digesters to be used on organic farms to be addressed. Field and laboratory experiments were used to compare the effects digestate and slurry had on earthworms, grass and weeds. Digestate and slurry had species dependent effects on earthworms during both LD50 / LT50 experiments and behavioural bioassays; Lumbricus terrestris survived longer in slurry and showed a behavioural preference towards slurry over digestate, whereas Eisenia fetida showed the opposite responses. Fertiliser application rates over 170 kg N ha-1 were found to be harmful to both species of earthworm. Suppressed germination effects were seen on thistles treated with digestate compared with no treatment (F0.56,19.66 =4.66, P < 0.01), whilst grass fertilised with digestate had a greater total mass than grass fertilised with slurry or left unfertilised (F2,27 =17.92, P < 0.001). Questionnaires and interviews were used to obtain a better understanding of the opinions farmers had about anaerobic digesters. Organic farmers believed renewable energy generation fitted well within organic principles, but using an anaerobic digester on an organic farm was less practical than on a conventional farm. This was due to multiple reasons including lack of information, poor associated finances, and that existing digesters are currently unsuitable for small organic farms. There was also support for anaerobic digesters to be on dairy farms- this was regardless of whether the farm was organic or conventional. Two case-study farms were used to assess the impact an anaerobic digester would have on the farms total GHG emissions. An anaerobic digester on the dairy farm was calculated to reduce GHG emissions by up to 24%, while for the mixed farm, the maximum reduction was by 20%. This was primarily due to the fact that the dairy farm benefitted from a higher volume of feedstock and proposed to use the biogas in a more energy efficient manner by producing electricity rather than vehicle fuel. Due to the high emissions associated with keeping livestock, both case studies needed to import additional feedstock if the farms were to achieve zero net GHG emissions. The answer to whether anaerobic digesters can be suitable for organic farms was judged on how well they complimented or conflicted with IFOAM’s definition of organic farming. Three main aspects of their definition were chosen and evidence from each chapter used to address the main question of the thesis. In conclusion, anaerobic digesters are theoretically suitable for use on organic farms, but are generally more practical for use on conventional farm systems. Across both farm systems the most suitable enterprises to adopt anaerobic digesters are dairy farms. This highlights the need for suitability of new systems to be assessed on a case-by-case scenario when trying to maximise positive impacts from new technologies.
Supervisor: Poppy, Guy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: GE Environmental Sciences ; QH301 Biology ; S Agriculture (General) ; TD Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering