Orgaworld Odour | Green Bin Compost Research
County approves green bin compost research
By Chris Montanini, Londoner
Friday, April 25, 2014 11:54:44 EDT AM
An ongoing trial in Strathroy exploring the benefits of using green bin organic waste to fertilize corn plants has been approved for a second season.
The research is taking place on two modest plots of land behind Strathmere Lodge, the retirement residence owned by Middlesex County. County council gave it the thumbs up at a meeting April 22 after learning about last yearâ€™s results, which included increased yield and improved soil health.
Nick Stockman, a local farmer who manages the plots, and Christine Brown, nutrient management lead, field crops, with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Ontario Ministry of Rural Affairs, presented their findings from the Strathmere site. Itâ€™s one of 17 research farms being used in Ontario to determine whether cash crop growers can use organic waste as a viable alternative to commercial fertilizer.
â€œThis green bin compost and some of the bio solids and â€¦ other materials that come from urban waste (is) an opportunity for cash croppers to get some organic matter and some nutrients that are similar to what livestock farmers (get from) manure,â€ Brown said. â€œI call green bin the manure for cash croppers.â€
Last spring, green bin waste (mostly food and yard waste, organic materials many cities are attempting to divert from landfills) was donated by Orgaworldâ€™s composting plant in south London.
Although corn on the Strathmere siteâ€™s short plots was hit by frost last May and didnâ€™t show a yield increase with the compost, the long plots told a different story. Stockman said corn on the long plots was replanted in June and on average, using compost resulted in around seven more bushels per acre compared to areas with only fertilizer. According to the findings, doubling the amount of compost also resulted in about the same numbers.
â€œWhat those numbers tell me is that the compost had a benefit over just fertilizer, but the high rate or low rate of compost didnâ€™t make much difference," Brown said.
Soil tests last August also found higher microbial activity in areas that were fertilized with organic compost, which means healthier soil and more nutrients for plants, Brown explained.
On additional sites in Ontario, research is being done with other cash crops such as wheat and fruit crops such as apples and strawberries.
Brown said each site is being studied over three years in order to get a picture of the cost of materials related to the increase in yields, which is where the benefits of com post are less certain.
"Transportation costs are expensive,â€ Brown said.
According to her research so far, compost costs between $5 and $7 per ton to transport (and could be upwards of $25 per ton, depending on how far a farm is from a com post source) and another $3 to $5 per ton to apply.
Brown said methods of transporting and storing compost are still being researched.
"Thereâ€™s a logistical problem of how many trucks can you get into the facility taking this product out at the time farmers need it,â€ she said, adding that part other study is determining safe storage options so compost is closer to farms when itâ€™s time to fertilize.
Fertilization is expected to take place at the Strathmere site within two weeks and this year will also include organic waste from TryRecycling.