Composting Benefits and Disadvantages

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 Composting benefits | Composting disadvantages

Why should we compost
Composting turns animal waste into a product that is easier to handle and provides the possibility of a saleable product. But, composting is a commitment that requires resources and time to manage the process.

Saleable ProductLoss of ammonia (N)
Destruction of pathogensTime involved
Kills weed seedsCost of equipment
Reduces mass and volumeLand required
Improved handlingMarketing required for sale
Improved transportability
Soil conditioner
Reduces odour
Land application when convenient
Improves nutrient qualities
Decreases pollutants

Composting Benefits

Saleable product
Compost is a marketable product. Gardeners, landscapers, farmers, sod producers, golf course operators, and others are willing to purchase quality compost. Price depends on the local market, quality of compost, and the raw materials used.

Destruction of pathogens
Pathogens are destroyed in a properly managed windrow if the temperature remains above 40C for a minimum of two weeks.

Kills weed seeds
Windrows maintaining temperatures of 40C for a minimum of two weeks destroy the viability of weed seeds.

Reduces mass and volume
The mass and volume of the manure is reduced when composted primarily due to moisture content reduction.

Improved handling
Composting reduces the moisture content making it easier to handle than manure. Compost does not have the odours or fly problems associated with raw manure.

Improved transportability
The reduction in mass and volume due to composting increases the distance land applied nutrients can be hauled economically.

Soil conditioner
Compost, when added to soil, provides organic matter, reduces potential for soil erosion, and reduces fertilizer requirements.

Reduces odour
Composting releases ammonia which reduces the odour emitted. Compost is a stable product which is free from offensive odours.

Land application when convenient
Compost can be stored without odour or fly problems and is a product which can be applied to the land when it is convenient for the farmer.

Improved nutrient qualities
Composting converts nitrogen to a stable form that is less susceptible to leaching. Composting high carbon to nitrogen ratio manures reduces the ratio which allows the nitrogen to be immediately available to the plants.

Decrease pollutants
Disposal of compost is not a problem because there is a demand for compost. Compost can be transported farther distances, possibly out of an over-burdened watershed. Composting converts nitrogen into forms which are less likely to leach into the ground or be carried away by surface runoff.

Composting Disadvantages

Loss of ammonia
Compost contains less than half the nitrogen of manure but if manure is not incorporated into the soil it loses nitrogen to the atmosphere and may retain less nitrogen than the compost.

Time involved
Composting requires a time commitment to properly manage the windrows to produce quality compost.

Cost of equipment
Specialized windrow turners may be required, but they can come at with a high price tag.

Land required
The composting site and storage for finished product can use a considerable area of land.

Marketing required for sale
Money and time may be spent advertising, packaging, and managing the business.

For more information
Virginia Nelson, E.I.T.
3000 College Drive South
Lethbridge, Alberta T1K 1L6
Phone: 403-329-1212
Fax: 403-328-5562
For more information about the content of this document, contact Virginia Nelson.
This document is maintained by Nicole Huggins-Rawlins.
This information published to the web on June 5, 2002.
Last Reviewed/Revised on May 22, 2014.