Moisture Management - The Key to Successful Composting

by Steven Wisbaum, Updated January 2019

Water is essential to all life on earth, and this obviously includes the myriad of microbes that make the compost process possible. Yet, over the past forty years of making compost, operating a "custom" composting operation, making tens of thousands of tons of compost for my own business, and selling ComposTex compost covers to composters around the world, I've learned how important it is to have adequate moisture throughout the compost process. But I've also discovered that there's a significant lack of understanding regarding both the importance of, as well the techniques for managing moisture in composting operations.
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In Defense of the Pile Less Turned – A Case for "Low-Input" Composting

by Steven Wisbaum, Updated January 2015

Although frequent turning regimens for turned-windrow composting operations continues to be promoted by some compost consultants, equipment manufacturers, educators, and the USDA* there's significant scientific and anecdotal evidence showing that compost of equal or even better quality can be made for a fraction of the cost and energy inputs using just a minimal number of well-timed and thorough turns. As discussed in detail below, composters employing this low-input method not only benefit from reduced labor, fuel, and equipment repair costs, but they also minimize the release of unpleasant odors, reduce the "carbon footprint" of their compost operations, conserve nitrogen and moisture, and produce compost with a higher organic matter content due to reductions in CO2 and VOC emissions.
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The Horse Owner's Guide to Composting

by Steven Wisbaum
(PDF file - requires adobe Acrobat reader)

This guide was written specifically to provide horse owners with the information they need to transform horse manure into a valuable soil amendment using the easiest, most practical, and cost effective methods possible. One of three ways to prevent manure or compost from getting too wet is the use of “compost covers“ which shed rainfall and snowmelt but are completely permeable to oxygen and water vapor.
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Low-Tech, High-Quality On-Farm Compost

by Vern Grubinger
Vegetable and Berry Specialist
University of Vermont Extension
(Adapted from information presented at workshops by Dr. Will Brinton, Woods End Lab, Mt. Vernon, Maine.)

Anywhere you go, there are waste products that are totally useless in farming that can be made into a useful product if proper compost recipes are developed. Some of these materials are more challenging than others, such as fish or paper mill waste, while others are easier to compost, like dairy or poultry manure plus bedding. On-farm wastes and yard wastes tend to be relatively free of contaminants compared to municipal wastes. With off-farm wastes, total source separation that results in "clean" residues is essential if the end-product is to be used in farming. Otherwise, a variety of contaminants may accumulate in the farming system over time. Composting for waste disposal and composting for production of a soil amendment can be conflicting approaches.
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On-Farm Compost Demonstration Project - Final Report

by Steven Wisbaum
Project Manager

This report describes the results of an on-farm compost demonstration project conducted between April 1995 and September 1995 in the upper Champlain Valley of N.Q. Vermont and N.E. New York State. As described in the ?Project Proposal?, there is increasing concern on the part of farmers and the general public regarding the potential impact of nutrient and bacteria loading from animal manure on Lake Champlain and its tributaries. Launched as a cooperative effort between agricultural and academic institutions in Vermont and New York State, the primary goal of the project was to demonstrate the potential for composting to reduce water quality impacts from manure stored and used on these farms.
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Northern Arizona University (NAU) Composting Pilot Study Research Report

2011-2012 By Patrick Pfeifer, Mark Gallo, and Brian Marbury
April, 2013

The goal of this research project was to test a variety of low-input methods of composting mixed organic materials (e.g. food scraps, yard debris, horse manure, etc.) in Flagstaff, Arizona under site-specific climate conditions and resource limitations while producing a high quality soil amendment for food production. A variety of composting methods/treatments were tested, monitored, and analyzed. ComposTex covers were used to reduce moisture loss
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What is Your Compost Energy Index?

by W. Brinton

Back in 1986, when Robert Parnes retired from Woods End Laboratory, he published a book — Organic And Inorganic Fertilizers (Parnes, 1986) — in which he pro- posed the "Energy Index" for carbon in compost and humus. The concept and its simple method of calculation have lain fairly dormant until recent- ly. What about applying the Energy Index to compare inputs and outputs for composting, that is, in terms of carbon equivalents?
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Composting and Climate Change; Opportunity in a Carbon Conscious World

by D. Hill, 2008

There is little doubt in the educated world today that the climate of the Earth is changing. We might debate whether these changes are occurring due to anthropogenic (human) activities, or whether they are the natural result of biogenic activities and geological, astronomical, and physical phenomenon. But change is occurring, and there is substantial evidence that human activities are a major influence precipitating and accelerating this change.
(click here to read the article).