Digestate could be a cheaper alternative to chemical fertilizers

As fertilizer prices continue to rise, farmers are increasingly turning to alternative sources to help “feed” crops and grass.

To this end, SAC Consulting conducted a six-month project on the benefits of using digestate on the farm. Fiona Salter of SAC Consulting explained: “Digestate, when used appropriately, can be an excellent source of nutrients for the farm and through the work we have done we hope to raise awareness among land managers the risks involved, how to mitigate them and the resulting benefits.

“We know that many farmers are currently struggling with rising fertilizer costs, and we hope we can provide some insight into the nutritional benefits of proper use of digestate and how to calculate fertilizer replacement value.”

Read more: Fertilizer crisis: This is a year where every ton counts

A document has been created for land managers sharing advice on the use of digestate on Scottish farms and details of the regulations and requirements involved. There are also two podcasts now available on the Farming and Water Scotland website, one of which listens firsthand to William Rose of Mid Coul Farms, who is reaping the benefits of spreading digestate on his farm in Dalcross, Inverness.

Commenting, Mr Rose said: ‘Using digestate has really transformed our ability to get bigger yields and more consistent crops, so that’s been a big boon and if we can meet our goal of using no purchased fertilizer, even on relatively small land areas, especially in the current climate, then we would be very satisfied.

He added that using the digestate has added organic matter to the soil and improved the structure of his soils, but advised farmers to read the advice and use the products in the right way.

“Spreading the digestate well is a challenge,” he continued. “You need to have accurate spreading equipment and at least have a sprinkler bar or some form of injection. It is essential to be able to spread precisely and only where it is needed.