Intermittent agitation of liquid manure: effects on methane, microbial activity, and temperature in a farm-scale study


VanderZaag, A.C., Baldé, H., Habtewold, J., Le Riche, E.L., Burtt, S., Dunfield, K., Gordon, R.J., Jenson, E., Desjardins, R.L. (2019). Intermittent agitation of liquid manure: effects on methane, microbial activity, and temperature in a farm-scale study. Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association, [online] 69(9), 1096-1106.

Plain language summary

The potential to mitigate methane emissions from liquid manure storages by strategically timed agitation was evaluated in a detailed farm-scale study. Agitation was conducted with readily-available farm equipment, and targeted at the early summer to disrupt methanogenic communities when CH4 emissions increase exponentially. Methane emissions were reduced for about one week after agitation. However, agitation led to increased manure temperature, and was associated with increased activity of methanogens. Overall, agitation was associated with similar or higher methane emissions. Therefore, agitation is not recommended as a mitigation strategy.


Farmers commonly agitate (stir) liquid manure prior to field application to homogenize nutrients and solids. During agitation, manure undergoes mechanical stress and is exposed to the air, disrupting anaerobic conditions. An on-farm study was conducted to better understand the effects of agitation on CH4 emissions, and explore the potential for intentional agitation (three times) to disrupt the exponential increase of CH4 emissions in spring and summer. Results showed that agitation substantially increased manure temperature in the study year compared to the previous year, particularly at upper- and mid-depths of the stored manure. The temporal pattern of CH4 emissions was altered by reduced emissions over the subsequent week, followed by an increase during the second week. Microbial analysis indicated that the activity of archaea and methanogens increased after each agitation event, but there was little change in the populations of methanogens, archaea, and bacteria. Overall, CH4 emissions were higher than any of the previous three years, likely due to warmer manure temperatures that were higher than the previous years (despite similar air temperatures). Intermittent manure agitation with the frequency, duration, and intensity used in this study is not recommended as a CH4 emission mitigation practice.

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