Degradation of biomacromolecules during high-rate composting of wheat straw-amended feces

A. H M Veeken*, F. Adani, K. G J Nierop, P. A. De Jager, H. V M Hamelers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Pig (Sus scrofa) feces, separately collected and amended with wheat straw, was composted in a tunnel reactor connected with a cooler. The composting process was monitored for 4 wk and the degradation of organic matter was studied by two chemical extraction methods, 13C cross polarization magic angle spinning (CPMAS) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and pyrolysis gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Wet-chemical extraction methods were not adequate to study the degradation of specific organic compounds as the extraction reagents did not give selective separation of hemicellulose, cellulose, proteins, and lignins. A new method was proposed to calculate the contribution of four biomacromolecules (aliphatics, proteins, polysaccharides, and lignin) from the 13C CPMAS NMR spectrum. Pyrolysis GC-MS allowed identification of the composition of the biomacromolecules. The biomacromolecules showed different rates of degradation during composting. High initial degradation rates of aliphatics, hemicellulose, and proteins were observed, where aliphatics were completely degraded and hemicellulose and proteins were partly recalcitrant during the four weeks of composting. The degradation rate of cellulose was much lower and degradation was not completed within the four weeks of composting. Lignin was not degraded during the thermophilic stage of composting but started to degrade slowly during the mesophilic stage. A combination of 13C CPMAS NMR and pyrolysis GC-MS gave good qualitative and semi-quantitative assessments of the degradation of biomacromolecules during composting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1675-1684
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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