Composting For Disposal Of Animal Waste
I recently attended a "how to" meeting for "on-farm composting" of manure and dead animals. Sponsored by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (state regulatory agency), the meeting highlighted the latest research on composting by Kansas State University, the Kansas Livestock Association and Franklin Haywood of pH Environmental, LLC.
Composting is a biological process that converts heterogeneous organic matter (manure, dead animals, plant material, etc.) into a more homogeneous, humus-like material. As soon as the appropriate materials are piled together, microorganisms almost immediately begin to consume the oxygen and the temperature within the organic pile increases rapidly to 120-140 degrees Fahrenheit. The high temperature is needed for a period of time to eliminate any harmful pathogens, weeds, diseases and insects and aid in the decomposition of the waste material and elimination of the odor. After the process is completed (90 to 120 days) with proper maintenance and temperature monitoring, the waste material is ready as a dark brown to black earthy smelling organic material for land application. It has the look and feel of humus or peat material that a person can buy at the garden supply retailer.
Compost is not considered a fertilizer, but as a soil amendment that will increase organic matter and improve the overall structure of the soil. It does contain a stable form of nitrogen that is less likely to leach into the water supplies. From an environmental point of view, it has many benefits, but farmers and producers will determine over time whether there are real economic benefits to it's use for crop production.
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