Best Management Practices Addressed Through Composting School

Kapil Arora, Field Specialist-Agricultural Engineering, Central

Problem Statement:

Facilities undertaking composting operations generally need training on various best management practices that can be incorporated in the composting process.  A better understanding of such practices is needed as composing is a biological process dependent upon the physical and chemical properties of the materials being composted.  The process is further impacted by management strategies adopted along with level of technology used.

Programmatic Response:

Instructors from Iowa State University Extension, University of Minnesota Extension, Texas A & M University, University of Illinois, and Illinois State University  teamed up to deliver a three-day intensive training on different best management practices involved in composting.  This training was delivered as Midwest Composting School which was held at Field Extension Education Laboratory from June 9 through 11, 2008.  The school was sponsored by Iowa State University Extension and Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). 

A total of 39 participants from Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Hawaii, and Minnesota attended the school representing over 780,000 tons of materials being composted annually.  Participants consisted of consultants, farmers, agri-business professionals, commercial composters, and regulators.  Participants attended a combination of in-class and field activities where they worked in teams to learn different problem solving tools which they can apply in their daily operations.

Outcome Statement:  

Participants received training on various best management practices that can be applied for matching compost materials and available technology to end uses, understanding compost process variables and recipe development, using monitoring equipment and control charts including tools such as recipe calculators. Participants also learnt about various testing methods, how to interpret results, and use of composted organics for erosion control.

Participants completed evaluations for both pre-school level of knowledge and post-school level of knowledge on individual learning topics.  Results of these evaluations show that the level of knowledge was doubled on average for the participants who filled out the evaluations.  Ninety-seven percent of participants rated the school as good or excellent.  The same percentage agreed that field exercises helped to better understand the learning topics.  When asked what they learnt at the school that they will use in their operations, participants cited “Recipe calculators & density & porosity tests”, “The importance of balancing the correct ingredients & the structure & chemistry of those ingredients. The impact will be better compost”, “How to build a more efficient compost pile. How to conduct tests on pile”, “Evaluation of feedstocks & producing finished compost. Various types of operations/processes”, etc.  


164  Natural Resources and Stewardship - Utilization of nutrient management indices and tools

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