The use of legumes as a biogas substrate : potentials for saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions through symbiotic nitrogen fixation
Energy crops are of considerable importance for biogas production, especially in Germany. The main energy crops for that purpose are corn silage, grass silage, whole crop grain silage and other non-legume crops. The reason for preferring these crops is their high yield, which not only results in high yields of biogas per hectare but also in a high mitigation of greenhouse gases in the course of replacing fossil energy. This article aims to show an additional effect exerted on energy yield and mitigation of greenhouse gases by the use of legume energy crops. The symbiotic nitrogen fixation (SNF) of legumes compensates inorganic N fertilizer in conventional farms, if the digestate is applied as a fertilizer to the non-legume cash crops. The production of chemical N fertilizer is very energy intensive and leads to emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil energy consumption and from nitrous oxide generation. So, the creation of an effective organic fertilizer with nitrogen from biological N2 fixation is a further energy add-on effect to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.