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Metabolic and microbial community dynamics during the hydrolytic and acidogenic fermentation in a leach-bed process

Heike Sträuber12*, Martina Schröder1 and Sabine Kleinsteuber12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Bioenergy, UFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, in cooperation with the Deutsches Biomasseforschungszentrum, Torgauer Strasse 116, 04347, Leipzig, Germany

2 Department of Environmental Microbiology, UFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Permoserstrasse 15, 04318, Leipzig, Germany

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Energy, Sustainability and Society 2012, 2:13  doi:10.1186/2192-0567-2-13

Published: 16 July 2012



Biogas production from lignocellulosic feedstock not competing with food production can contribute to a sustainable bioenergy system. The hydrolysis is the rate-limiting step in the anaerobic digestion of solid substrates such as straw. Hence, a detailed understanding of the metabolic processes during the steps of hydrolysis and acidogenesis is required to improve process control strategies.


The fermentation products formed during the acidogenic fermentation of maize silage as a model substrate in a leach-bed process were determined by gas and liquid chromatography. The bacterial community dynamics was monitored by terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. The community profiles were correlated with the process data using multivariate statistics.


The batch process comprised three metabolic phases characterized by different fermentation products. The bacterial community dynamics correlated with the production of the respective metabolites. In phase 1, lactic and acetic acid fermentations dominated. Accordingly, bacteria of the genera Lactobacillus and Acetobacter were detected. In phase 2, the metabolic pathways shifted to butyric acid fermentation, accompanied by the production of hydrogen and carbon dioxide and a dominance of the genus Clostridium. In phase 3, phylotypes affiliated with Ruminococcaceae and Lachnospiraceae prevailed, accompanied by the formation of caproic and acetic acids, and a high gas production rate.


A clostridial butyric type of fermentation was predominant in the acidogenic fermentation of maize silage, whereas propionic type fermentation was marginal. As the metabolite composition resulting from acidogenesis affects the subsequent methanogenic performance, process control should focus on hydrolysis/acidogenesis when solid substrates are digested.

Biogas; Anaerobic digestion; Maize silage; Hydrolysis; Acidogenesis; Solid state fermentation; Bacterial 16 S rRNA genes; T-RFLP fingerprinting