The EPA and the Council of Agriculture (COA) jointly promote utilization of livestock manure digestate as fertilizers for farms. A pilot program was conducted in 2022, in which farmers were invited to use manure digestate to fertilize and irrigate crops such as red bean. After positive trial results, this year the program will be expanded to six counties and cities: Changhua County, Yunlin County, Chiayi County, Tainan City, Kaohsiung City and Pingtung County.
In 2023, to encourage farmers to participate in demonstration fertilization projects the EPA has offered an incentive, equivalent to 10% of the proceeds from the harvests. The aim is to lower river pollution, improve air quality in rural areas, and facilitate a circular economy via policies to recycle and repurpose livestock manure as nitrogen fertilizers. Local environmental bureaus and agriculture offices have prepared planting handbooks for various crops, are available to provide guidance and assist in matching farmlands needing fertilizers with livestock farmers. The cost of transporting digestate will be subsidized by the central government.
For this year’s program, the EPA will emphasize the use of manure digestate from the second-crop of rice cultivation. Based on previous trial results, rice crops fertilized with manure digestate have shown benefits such as reduced pest problems and disease, plumper rice grains, and greater strength in general. Soil monitoring is continually carried out to ensure quality control and deal with concerns about heavy metal content, often a question in the past.
The program not only improves river water quality by reducing discharges of livestock wastewater into water bodies, but food safety for consumers is also enhanced with less use of agrochemicals and chemical fertilizers on crops. Meanwhile, farmers will benefit from less spent for chemical fertilizers, increased yields, and incentives from the EPA. Farmers participating in the demonstration program have seen an average increase in crop yields of 30%, which along with the additional 10% incentive provided by the EPA is approximately equal to a 40% increase in income.
Giving a thumb’s up, program participant Mrs. Li, who grows red beans in Xinyuan, Pingtung County, said, "The EPA promotes the wisdom of our ancestors, which helps to save on use of fertilizers and water." For her, using manure digestate for fertilization has led to halving the amount of chemical fertilizers, crops less prone to disease, and an abundant harvest, 30% more than that of neighboring red bean farms. Upon seeing the results, other nearby farmers of red beans, bananas, and other crops have been inquiring about fertilization with manure digestate.
The program’s achievements showcase the perfect combination of traditional farming methods and modern technology, as well as the charm and potential benefits of returning organic matter to farmland. Utilization of livestock manure resources is part of a sustainable agricultural model, benefiting the land and the environment by transforming manure digestate into useful fertilizers while cutting reliance on chemical fertilizers and agrochemicals.
During the past five years the EPA has actively promoted manure digestate reutilization by providing assistance, subsidies and various other resources. Over 600 seminars were held in collaboration with local governments to match livestock farms with crop farmers for use of manure digestate for fertilization, with 11 townships selected as demonstration sites nationwide. As of the end of December 2022, the three methods of utilizing manure digestate have helped reduce biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) by 66,165 metric tons per year. Another result is that total digestate used for fertilization contain 1,565 metric tons of nitrogen per year, equivalent to 241,556 bags per year of Taiwan Fertilizer Co.’s No. 5 Fertilizer, thus saving NT$99.04 million per year in fertilizer costs.
However, such result excludes nitrogen content of 2,309 metric tons/year in matters recycled for plant irrigation based on the Effluent Standards (放流水標準) as plants irrigated according to the standards require no fertilizers.
Resource recycling such as re-use of livestock manure and better wastewater disposal can make significant contributions towards net-zero emissions. The EPA explained that the Water Pollution Control Act (水污染防治法) has been amended with targets set for reuse of livestock wastewater. As of March 2023, the target of 5% reuse rate for farms with 2,000 heads of livestock or more by 2023 has been achieved. The next challenge is for small and medium-sized farms with 20 to 1,999 heads to reach a 5% reuse rate by 2025, and for farms with 2,000 heads or more to reach a 10% reuse rate by 2027. This requires the joint efforts and cooperation of the livestock industry, agricultural authorities, and environmental protection authorities to implement resource utilization and improve water quality.
Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, March 2023
- Ministry of Environment