Lignite effects on gaseous emissions during composting of manure were examined. Lignite amended manure decreased NH3 emission by 54% during composting process. CO2−emission from lignite treated manure was 2.6 times that of non-lignite manure. The benefits of reduced NH3 by adding lignite outweighed increased GHG emission.
Production of compost from cattle manure results in ammonia (NH3) and greenhouse gas emissions, causing the loss of valuable nitrogen (N) and having negative environmental impacts. Lignite addition to cattle pens has been reported to reduce NH3 emissions from manure by approximately 60%. However, the effect of lignite additions during the manure composting process, in terms of gaseous emissions of NH3, nitrous oxide (N2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and methane (CH4) is not clear. This composting study was conducted at a commercial cattle feedlot in Victoria, Australia. Prior to cattle entering the feedlot, we applied 4.5 kg/m2 of dry lignite to a treatment pen, and no lignite to a control pen. After 90 days of occupancy, the cattle were removed and the accumulated manure from each pen was used to form two separate compost windrows (control and treatment). During composting we collected manure samples regularly and quantified gaseous emissions of NH3, N2O, CO2, and CH4 from both windrows with an inverse-dispersion technique using open-path Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. The addition of lignite reduced NH3 emissions by 54% during composting, but increased total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2.6 times. Total N losses as NH3–N and N2O–N were approximately 11 and 25% of initial N for the lignite and non-lignite windrows, respectively. The effectiveness of retaining N was obvious in the first three weeks after windrow formation. A cost-benefit analysis indicated that the benefit of lignite addition to cattle pens by reduced NH3 emission could justify the trade-off of increased GHG emissions.