Enzymes and Bacteria
Is it Hype or Does it Help?
There are lots of companies offering bacteria and enzyme “solutions” and they all state in their literature that their product is the answer to a lagoons solid buildup, nutrient management and odor control. Is this just sales hype or does it really help in your lagoon management? To answer this question you must look at your expected outcomes and the cost/benefit analysis of each solution.
Here are some questions a lagoon owner or manure producer needs to ask themselves as they ponder their lagoon waste management situation:
The answer to the above questions will often determine how an operator will view lagoon waste management and the benefits or outcomes of using enzymes and bacteria seeding vs. the traditional methods of pumping top water for irrigation and using custom pumpers to remove solids.
What is Nitrification?
Nitrification is the process by which ammonia is converted to nitrites (NO2-) and then nitrates (NO3-). This process naturally occurs in the environment, where it is carried out by specialized bacteria.
How Do Enzymes Work?
Enzymes is a popular ingredient used in cleaning agents, fabric care products and wastewater treatment products. Enzymes are biocatalysts produced by living micro-organisms used to speed up various biological processes. In essence they are the rocket fuel that expedites the natural biological or bacterial breakdown of organic waste.
How Does Bacteria Work?
As stated above, enzymes are produced by microorganisms, these microorganisms are called bacteria. Not all bacteria is bad, beneficial bacteria are like natures garbage disposal...they can aggressively devour and clean up organic waste. This is very similar to composting manure solids. Bacteria alone will not entirely remove the solids problem, it just converts animal wastes into gases, water and other dissolved particles.
Factors to Consider when Using of Enzymes and Bacteria
One needs to assess and determine the end plan or goal of using enzymes and bacteria seeding. Is it to have:
Lets discuss the rationale for each of the goals of using enzymes and bacteria seeding.
1) Less Nitrogen: Nitrogen is a valuable and necessary nutrient for plant fertility and should be used as effectively as possible. If you are planning on using the effluent top water to irrigate your crops, do you really want to eliminate the Nitrogen with the enzymes and bacteria seeding? If you are currently purchasing NPK from the local coop then why eliminate the nutrient value already in your possession?
2) Less solids: If your goal is to eliminate solids in the secondary lagoon then enzymes and bacteria seeding is a reasonable alternative. However, you need to look at the reason you are having so many solids in the secondary lagoon. Is it because the primary lagoon is full? Is it because your lagoons are undersized? Is it because you have too much inflow of effluent for the lagoons to function properly? One needs to look at the root cause of the solids problem, not just try to fix the symptoms.
3) Easier or more pumpable effluent: The goal of enzymes and bacteria seeding use is to have the suspended solids become small enough particles for it to be pumpable through the irrigation pivots. If the effluent and solids are completely digested this is the expected outcome. If the system is being overwhelmed by the incoming effluent then this becomes an improbable possibility.
The down side of enzymes and bacteria is they become less effective as the water temperature cools. The bacteria becomes dormant once the water temperature reaches 35o degree Fahrenheit. During this cool water time period the incoming solids can overwhelm the lagoon and settle out before the bacteria becomes active enough when the water temperature returns to normal temperatures.
4) Save money on pumping costs: The goal of every business especially a CAFO or lagoon operation is to save money wherever you can. Many manure or effluent producers view the solids and animal waste as a costly expense to dispose of. However the economic value of the nutrients can often offset if not totally pay for the pumping costs. (See following article of “Value of Effluent Nutrients”).
You can look at pumping costs as an expense or you can look at them as an investment in your crops fertility. If you own your own land or farming operation this is an easy decision. If you are exporting or selling the effluent to neighbors, then you can partially offset if not totally cover your pumping costs (depends on NPK value of effluent being exported).
Discussion and Conclusion
One of the deciding economic factors of using enzymes or bacteria seeding or not is how one considers the effluent or animal waste. Is it considered just waste that costs money to dispose of or is it considered waste with nutrient opportunity. In some areas with minimal soil types the crop production has increased 30 to 50% just by enriching the soil with manure effluent injected into the root zone of the crops.
In side-by-side comparisons with the same corn seed in the same field with the same irrigation schedule the corn cob and kernel size in manure effluent injected ground was longer and more full than the corn found in adjacent ground with NPK nutrients commercially applied. This larger corn kernel and cob size will increase total crop yield and crude protein available for animal feeding or for sale on the open market.
The question needs to be asked: would you rather have the bacterial process happen in the lagoon or happen in the agriculture field where the nutrients have an opportunity to help in the crop fertility
Eventually a lagoon, with or without enzyme or bacteria seeding, will need mechanical removal of the sludge or bottom solids. This is commonly done by custom pumping crews such as Lagoon Pumping and Dredging, Inc.
Enzymes and bacteria seeding is just one tool that is available and should be used for very specific reasons in very specific situations. They are not the answer to all lagoons and every lagoon problem.
The above report on Enzymes is an abbreviated report. Call the office at 402-563-3464 to get a complete report emailed to you.
Internet Resource Documents:
These documents and other internet research went into writing the above article regarding Enzymes, Bacteria and the ongoing animal waste lagoon management plan you have for your CAFO or effluent producing facility.
EPA’s Nitrification White Paper
Sludge Management & Closure Procedures for Anaerobic Lagoons
Dairy Waste Anaerobic Digestion Handbook
Overview of Anaerobic Digestion System for Dairy Farms
Effects of Adding Biostimulant to Anaerobic Digesters at Calgary Municipal Wastewater
Training Manual for Operators of Wastewater Stabilization Lagoons
Liquid Enzymes – A comprehensive information booklet
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