Recent attempts have been made to develop a thermophilic composting process for organic sludge to not only produce organic fertilizers and soil conditioners, but to also utilize the generated ammonia gas to produce high value-added algae. The hydrolysis of organic nitrogen in sludge is a bottleneck in ammonia conversion, and its improvement is a major challenge. The present study aimed to elucidate the effects of inoculated Neurospora sp. on organic matter decomposition and ammonia conversion during thermophilic composting of two organic sludge types: anaerobic digestion sludge and shrimp pond sludge. A laboratory-scale sludge composting experiment was conducted with a 6-day pretreatment period at 30 °C with Neurospora sp., followed by a 10-day thermophilic composting period at 50 °C by inoculating the bacterial community. The final organic matter decomposition was significantly higher in the sludge pretreated with Neurospora sp. than in the untreated sludge. Correspondingly, the amount of non-dissolved nitrogen was also markedly reduced by pretreatment, and the ammonia conversion rate was notably improved. Five enzymes exhibiting high activity only during the pretreatment period were identified, while no or low activity was observed during the subsequent thermophilic composting period, suggesting the involvement of these enzymes in the degradation of hardly degradable fractions, such as bacterial cells. The bacterial community analysis and its function prediction suggested the contribution of Bacillaceae in the degradation of easily degradable organic matter, but the entire bacterial community was highly incapable in degrading the hardly degradable fraction. To conclude, this study is the first to demonstrate that Neurospora sp. decomposes those organic nitrogen fractions that require a long time to be decomposed by the bacterial community during thermophilic composting.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.