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Compost & Composting

General Information
The B.C. Agricultural Composting Handbook (BCMAF '98/PDF 160 KB), published by British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Food (currently British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands), is a handbook consisting of seventeen composting fact sheets available in PDF. BCMAF does not have print copies available. Despite this Internet access issue, the handbook is the best set of fact sheets available and is used by workshop providers on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border.
The Preparation and Use of Compost (Mario Lanthier Nov 2009)
Making and Using Compost for Organic Farming
The Composting Process (BC Agriculture)
Composting Guide for Beginners (BillyOh)
The Composting Process: Fundamental Principles (CCC/PDF 144 KB) C:N ratio, Sufficient moisture, Adequate oxygen
Composting Methods (BCMAF '96/PDF 388 KB)
Site Selection for Composting (BCMAF '96/PDF 588 KB)
Managing Agricultural Composting Systems (BCMAF '96/PDF 292 KB)
Managing Poultry Mortality Composting Systems (BCMAF '96/PDF 552 KB)
Managing Pork Mortality Composting Systems (BCMAF '96/PDF 148 KB)
Mortality Bin Compost Design (BCMAF '96/PDF 628 KB)
Composting: Environmental Concerns (BCMAF '96/PDF 152 KB)
Co-Composting with Off-Farm Wastes (BCMAF '96/PDF 164 KB)
Economics of Composting (BCMAF '96/PDF 192 KB)
Using Compost (BCMAF '96/PDF 176 KB)
Composting: Suggested Reading and References (BCMAF '96/PDF 136 KB)
Glossary of Composting Terms (BCMAF '96/PDF 164 KB)
Manure Mario's Contributions
Natural Suppression of Plant Diseases - a research update (Mario Lanthier Nov 2009 - PDF)
Mycorrhizal Inoculation Of Nursery Trees: Benefits For Arborists (Mario Lanthier Nov 2009 - PDF)
The Preparation and Use of Compost (Mario Lanthier Nov 2009 - PDF)

        Litter Poultry Litter

Nov. 09: 4 NEW Fact-sheets by the UBC Agroecology-Soils Group Research
These fact-sheets summarize research done for both lower mainland organic and conventional farmers, using either uncomposted, aged* or composted poultry manure based organic materials. Some of the results and practices will be outside organic certification guidelines, but much of the findings regarding manure spreader function and fertilizer replacement value should be relevant. The Temporary Field Storage Fact Sheet is meant for the high rainfall, coastal areas and may not apply in dryer, Interior conditions
- Poultry Litter as Replacement Fertilizer & Spreader Evaluations (2.7 MB pdf)
- Poultry Litter Spreading Costs & Replacement Fertilizer Evaluations (200 KB pdf)
- Temporary Field Storage of Poultry Litter (420 KB pdf)
- Poultry Litter Composting For Food Safety & Soil Nutrient Management (350 KB pdf)
*The "aged poultry manure" which is discussed in these four factsheets is referring to a common material used by many mainstream British Columbia farmers taking delivery of fresh manure in the fall and allowing it to sit in a pile overwinter prior to application the next spring. The 'aging' is not equivalent to composting, as the interior of the pile stays dry and doesn't decompose. The exterior wet rind does undergo decomposition ala composting. This storage process creates some heat and high ammonia levels inside the pile which might reduce the survivability of some weed seeds and pathogens. Also, it takes on a less dusty more easily spread physical characteristic and thus presenting much less of a risk to handlers and neighbours than spreading fresh manure. This aging process is different from the aging or rotting that would occur with wet barnyard manure in which more decomposition would likely occur. Without complete thermophyllic composting and curing stage taking place, these materials would be classified as raw manure by Canadian Organic Standards.
Poultry Mortality Composting Management Guide (UGAf)
ManureOther How-to-Compost sites
Basic On-Farm Composting Manual (CWC '97/PDF 108 KB)
Compost. Leaf Composting Manual for Municipality
Compost Program. Level 1.
How to compost: EAP Publication - 56
How to make compost tea
On-Farm Composting Handbook (NRAES-54) provides a comprehensive summary of the composting process, composting methods, raw materials, compost use, site and environmental considerations, marketing, economics, and management.
ManureWhy Organic composting standards in addition to the issues above?
Organic Standards aim for safe compost practices and avoidance of:
- pesticides (CIWWB '02/PDF 48 KB),
- herbicides (UG '96/PDF 32 KB),
- organic pollutants (POPs),
- antibiotics,
- other chemicals, and GMO seeds.
Following the compost process some prohibited substances may persist in a less toxic form, altered form, or in a new toxic soup in the finished compost product. The standards attempt to help us minimize risk.
Precautionary measures to consider:
* Document supplier and supplier's source,
* Don't use questionable feedstuffs,
* If there is any doubt about persistence, test or don't use,
* Conduct seed germination test for GMO whole seeds in conventional manures, or monitor compost site and destroy any potential GMO germinating plant.
* A test plot agreed to with your Certification Body may limit contamination if persistence is discovered.

Food safetyFood Safety issues are another concern that warrant their own web page.
ManureOrganic Criteria
Composting requirements are outlined in the Canada Organic Standard composed of General Priniciples (CAN/CGSB 32.310) and the Permitted Substance List (CAN/CGSB 32.311).
The pertinent compost & composting sections can be reviewed here (2008 / PDF 72 KB)
Controlling flies Fly Control
Manure and Sanitation Management (BioControl)
Fly Parasites, Fly Control (Bio Control)
Integrated Pest Management for Fly Control in Maine Dairy Barns (UM ext/pdf)
Mosquito and Fly Prevention and Control on Manitoba Farms (Manitoba 2002 - ignore spray recommendations)
Natural Suppression of Plant Diseases
Natural Suppression of Plant Diseases - a research update (Mario Lanthier Nov 2009)
Compost and Disease Suppression (ATTRA)
Production of Composts with Broad Spectrum Disease Suppressive Properties (OSU)
Cultivating Beneficial Indigenous Microorganisms
Cultivating Beneficial Indigenous Microorganisms (NewFarm April '04)
Cultivating Beneficial Soil Fungi to Increase Yields (NewFarm April '04)
How to Cultivate Indigenous Microorganisms (U of H 2008 / PDF 1.1MB)
Bokashi Organic Fertilizer (REAP-Canada 2006)
Nature Farming Manual:
A handbook of preparations, techniques and organic amendments inspired by Nature Farming and adapted to locally available materials and needs (Bokashi 2006)
Compost Teas Compost Teas
Compost Tea - Just What the Doctor Ordered (Acres, PDF)
Compost Tea - Promises & Practicalities (Acres, PDF)
Notes on Compost Teas (ATTRA 2002)
Compost Tea and Its Impact on Plant Diseases (COABC 2007)
Are compost teas an effective nutrient amendment in the cultivation of strawberries? (OACC 2009)
Environmental Factors & Regulations
Pertinent Federal (Canadian) & Provincial (BC) Regulations (in-site)
Other Things To Consider
Sustainability of Modern Composting: (to turn or not to turn - Woods End/PDF 200 KB)
: Biodynamic Farming & Compost Preparation

When do I need to hot compost?

On Tuesday, at 2 pm.   . . . Oh, sorry – you're wondering “under what conditions” should you hot compost!  First, a quick definition.  Hot composting is defined as:

Compost prepared in such a way that it was heated to temperatures as high as 70°C /160°F for several days or longer as it decomposed, hot enough to kill weed seeds, and disease organisms and to destroy GMOs and most antibiotics.

If we have had a patch of disease in our garden, if we have unruly weed seed problems, if we are using off-farm manures that may contain GM components or antibiotics, then you must be thorough with your hot composting. Certainly invest in a long probed thermometer to make sure you are getting good temperatures, and be thorough with your turning. We are warned that although hot, long periods of composting (four months) will destroy traces of GM products, intact GM seeds and grains are not affected by this, nor are the antibiotics Sulfadimidine (sulfamethazine), Picloram, Clopyralid, Aminopyralid. Sometimes Diazanon doesn't breakdown and strangely enough not all Pyrethroids. Also beware anything containing Arsenic or Borates. Sourcing from other organic farms will certainly reduce the number of elements that will worry you in your final product. And, by Tuesday at 2 pm, you'll feel quite relaxed.

- Robin Wheeler

[We recently learned of Robin Wheeler's passing and want to acknowledge her valuable contributions to this web site. - Cyber-Help, March 2012 ]

Elsewhere on this site:
Pertinent Federal (Canadian) & Provincial (BC) Regulations
Organic Dairy Farming in Canada
Farm Equipment
Marketing Your Product
Organic Prices (fruit and vegetables)
Small Scale Food Processing
Pest Management
Soil (Canada, USA) and Water (BC, Alberta) Testing Labs & Services

Large compost pile

MarketingSoilVegetablesFruitBees and beekeepingGrains and ForageSpecialty CropsGreenhouseLivestockCertificationAnimal WelfareOn-farm Food Safety

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