Ensiling of crops for biogas production: effects on methane yield and total solids determination

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Background: Ensiling is a common method of preserving energy crops for anaerobic digestion, and many scientific studies report that ensiling increases the methane yield. In this study, the ensiling process and the methane yields before and after ensiling were studied for four crop materials. Results: The changes in wet weight and total solids (TS) during ensiling were small and the loss of energy negligible. The methane yields related to wet weight and to volatile solids (VS) were not significantly different before and after ensiling when the VS were corrected for loss of volatile compounds during TS and VS determination. However, when the TS were measured according to standard methods and not corrected for losses of volatile compounds, the TS loss during ensiling was overestimated for maize and sugar beet. The same methodological error leads to overestimation of methane yields; when TS and VS were not corrected the methane yield appeared to be 51% higher for ensiled than fresh sugar beet. Conclusions: Ensiling did not increase the methane yield of the studied crops. Published methane yields, as well as other information on silage related to uncorrected amounts of TS and VS, should be regarded with caution.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Industrial Biotechnology

Free keywords

  • biogas
  • anaerobic digestion
  • methane potential
  • biofuel
  • ethanol
  • volatile fatty acids
  • dry matter
  • total solids
  • volatile solids
  • ensiling
  • silage


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