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Bioresource Technology 98 (2007) 3221–3227

A review of composting as a management alternative for beef


cattle feedlot manure in southern Alberta, Canada
Francis J. Larney *, Xiying Hao
Environmental Health Program, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Research Centre, P.O. Box 3000, Lethbridge, Alta., Canada T1J 4B1

Available online 5 February 2007

Abstract

Composting is gaining increased acceptance as a management alternative for the large volumes of manure produced by southern
Alberta’s beef cattle feedlots. Research on windrow composting of feedlot manure was initiated at the Lethbridge Research Centre of
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in 1996. Early studies looked at physical and chemical changes during composting. Studies have also
been conducted on greenhouse gas emissions during composting and the effect of composting on reduction of pathogens, parasites and
weed seed viability. The quality of commercially-produced composts at southern Alberta feedlots has been examined as has the miner-
alization rates of soil-applied composts. This paper reviews results from our feedlot manure composting research program.
Crown Copyright Ó 2006 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Compost; Manure; Nutrients; Greenhouse gas emissions; Pathogens

1. Introduction southern Alberta, several large feedlots are composting


their manure for the agricultural market. In light of this
The County of Lethbridge in southern Alberta is one of increased adoption, and subsequent questions from farm-
the most densely populated livestock regions in North ers and growers, a composting research program was initi-
America. In 2000, the County had a licensed capacity of ated at the Lethbridge Research Centre of Agriculture and
almost 700,000 head of cattle in open feedlots, with some Agri-Food Canada in 1996. Several aspects of the pro-
individual feedlots having >25,000 head. Due to its high gram’s findings are reviewed in this paper. Composting
water content (70% w/w), it is uneconomical to haul projects have been fully integrated in a multi-disciplinary
raw manure more than 15–20 km. Therefore, most manure approach, using manure generated by a 1500-head research
is land applied close to source at high application rates. feedlot.
This diminishes its traditional role as a soil amendment Physical changes (Larney et al., 2000) and nutrient
and it is often viewed as a disposal problem rather than dynamics (carbon (C), nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P)) dur-
the utilization of a valuable nutrient source. In the long ing composting (Larney et al., 1999, 2002, 2006) have been
term, high manure application rates are unsustainable, investigated. A relationship between C, ash and organic
leading to degradation of soil (Hao and Chang, 2003), matter (OM) contents has been developed (Larney et al.,
water (Chang and Entz, 1996; Chang and Janzen, 1996) 2005). We have also examined the effect of co-composting
and air (Chang et al., 1998) quality. phosphogypsum (a by-product of P fertilizer manufacture)
Recently, composting has gained increased attention as and feedlot manure (Zvomuya et al., 2005).
a means of reducing the environmental impact of manure Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are associated with
(Peigné and Girardin, 2004; Larney et al., 2000). In livestock and manure production. The effects of aeration
method (Hao et al., 2001), pen bedding material (Hao
*
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 403 317 2216; fax: +1 403 317 2187. et al., 2004) and phosphogypsum addition (Hao et al.,
E-mail address: larneyf@agr.gc.ca (F.J. Larney). 2005) on GHG emissions during composting of feedlot

0960-8524/$ - see front matter Crown Copyright Ó 2006 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2006.07.005
3222 F.J. Larney, X. Hao / Bioresource Technology 98 (2007) 3221–3227

manure have been examined. Sommer et al. (2004) main- Manure was generally scraped into piles in the feedlot
tained that accurate estimates of emission of GHGs from pens several days before loading into a truck. Truckloads
manure are sparse due the lack of suitable measuring tech- of manure were then deposited into individual compost
niques. Therefore they compared different methods of esti- windrows. At formation, windrows were about 10 m in
mating GHGs from composting manure. length, 2.5 m wide at the base and 2 m high. Windrows
Although pathogen reduction is a recognized benefit of were generally turned 7–9 times with a tractor-pull wind-
composting (Rynk, 1992), the lack of definitive relation- row turner. A typical turning schedule was 7, 14, 21, 28,
ships between reduction and composting duration, sub- 42, 56, 77 and 98 d. The windrows were then rolled into
strates, or temperature conditions prompted a study on curing piles and left for 3 months, at which time they
the fate of coliform bacteria during open-air windrow com- were considered mature. More details on actual compo-
posting of beef feedlot manure in southern Alberta (Larney sting procedures are presented by Larney et al. (2006).
et al., 2003). We have also looked at the reduction of the Initial sampling of fresh manure was conducted when
parasites Giardia and Cryptosporidium (Van Herk et al., depositing each truckload of manure into windrows. Final
2004), the plant pathogen Fusarium graminearum (Turking- sampling of composted material coincided with the end of
ton et al., 2005) and viable weed seeds (Larney and Black- the thermophilic phase and the end of the curing phase.
shaw, 2003) during composting. Across different experiments, sample numbers ranged from
Compost quality varies depending on the amount of 10 to 26 per replicate at each sampling time.
bedding used, the degree of contamination with soil and As soon as possible after sampling, each sample bag of
composting method (e.g. turning frequency). Moreover, material was sub-sampled (10 g wet weight) for inorganic
the definition of what constitutes compost differs widely, N (NO3-N + NH4-N) which was determined colorimetri-
from manure which is simply stockpiled to material which cally after extraction with 200 mL of 2 N KCl. A larger
has been turned many times. Carbon and N forms and con- sub-sample (1.5 kg wet weight) was taken for water con-
centrations are important qualities of compost (Bernal tent (WC) determination (expressed on a wet weight basis)
et al., 1998; N’Dayegamiye et al., 1997; Parkinson et al., by oven-drying at 60 °C for 5 d (Peters et al., 2003). The
2004). Larney et al. (2004) sampled compost from eight remaining analyses were performed on oven-dried samples.
southern Alberta feedlots and measured quality-related Total C, total N (and total sulfur (S) for the phosphogyp-
parameters. sum experiments (Hao et al., 2005; Zvomuya et al., 2006))
With the increased popularity of composting and com- were determined on finely-ground (<150 lm) samples using
post application to land in place of fresh manure, there is an automated C:N:S elemental analyzer (Carlo Erba,
a need to ascertain the mineralization rates of nutrients Milan, Italy). Total P was determined after wet digestion
in compost compared to fresh material. Since composting with H2SO4 and H2O2 and water-extractable P using
stabilizes OM, it also slows the release of nutrients once 0.3 g of material in 30 mL of deionized water. Ash content
land applied. Information is required on prediction of was determined in a muffle furnace (650 °C for 24 h) and
compost mineralization rates, perhaps from a few simple OM was estimated as 100-ash content (%).
measurements of compost properties. This would aid in Windrow temperatures were measured with a datalog-
decision-making to comply with best management prac- ger. Thermocouples were usually installed as soon as the
tices. To address this issue, experiments looking at the min- windrows were formed and were removed just prior to
eralization of C (Helgason et al., 2005) and P (Zvomuya turning and re-installed as soon as possible after turning.
et al., 2006) after addition to soil, from a selection of 8–9 Nine thermocouples were attached to an aluminium
commercially-available feedlot manure composts from three-pronged fork (three thermocouples per prong at
southern Alberta have been conducted. about 0.3, 0.6 and 0.9 m from the bottom of the windrow)
which was placed vertically in each windrow treatment.
2. Composting research methods in southern Alberta Greenhouse gas measurements are outlined in detail by
Hao et al. (2001, 2004, 2005). Briefly, gas (CO2, CH4 and
Our composting experiments were carried out on a con- N2O) concentration profiles were determined weekly for
crete pad under an open-sided roofed structure at the Agri- the first 10 weeks and every 2–3 weeks thereafter at 0, 15,
culture and Agri-Food Research Centre, Lethbridge, 40, 75, 100 and 130 cm below the windrow surface using
Alberta (49°42 0 N, 112°50 0 W). This facility precludes water a multi-level gas sampler. Surface fluxes of GHGs were
inputs from precipitation. Cereal straw is traditionally used measured on the same schedule as gas concentration pro-
as a bedding material in open feedlot pens, to mitigate win- files using a modified vented chamber (Hutchinson and
ter cold stress on the animals. Recently, however, wood Mosier, 1981). All gas samples were analyzed by gas
residuals (shavings, wood chips) from Alberta’s forest chromatography.
and lumber industry have been used as an alternative bed- Sommer et al. (2004) adapted integrated horizontal flux
ding source. At pen cleaning, the material had an approx- (IHF) and backwards Lagrangian stochastical (bLS) dis-
imate manure:bedding ratio of 4:1 (dry weight basis), persion micrometeorological techniques to measure gas
regardless of whether it was straw-bedded manure (SBM) emissions (NH3, CH4, N2O and CO2) from a manure pile.
or wood-bedded manure (WBM). The results were compared with vented chamber measure-
F.J. Larney, X. Hao / Bioresource Technology 98 (2007) 3221–3227 3223

ments. Net horizontal gas fluxes were determined by in the range of 20–30%. Bulk density increased 3–4-fold
mounting passive NH3 samplers, gas intakes for CO2 and during composting. Changes such as reduced water content
CH4, and anemometers on poles that were always located and increased bulk density have implications for haulage of
up and downwind of the pile as controlled by a wind vane. nutrients in the form of compost vs. raw manure.
Further, NH3 emission was estimated with the bLS tech- The predominant form of available N (ammonium-N vs.
nique using NH3 concentration measured with a laser nitrate-N) changes during composting. Larney et al. (1999)
downwind of the pile. reported that nitrate-N increased from 6 to 550 mg kg dur-
Composting experiments examining the fate of undesir- ing active composting while ammonium-N decreased from
able characteristics of manure such as pathogens, parasites 2270 to 500 mg kg1. This is typical of the composting pro-
and weed seeds are explained in more detail by Larney cess, as early breakdown of easily-decomposable OM by
et al. (2003) (Escherichia coli), Van Herk et al. (2004) (Giar- ammonification gives rise to NH3 which either volatilizes
dia and Cryptosporidium), Turkington et al. (2005) (F. to the atmosphere or converts to NH4-N depending on
graminearum) and Larney and Blackshaw (2003) (weed pH levels, porosity and air movement within the windrow.
seed viability). Nitrification, whereby NH4-N is oxidized to NO2-N and
A study examining properties of eight different manure then NO3-N, occurs later in the composting process, result-
composts, collected from southern Alberta feedlots in ing in a decline in NH4-N and an increase in NO3-N. In
2002, aimed to achieve a snapshot of compost quality for fact the NH4-N/NO3-N ratio is often used as an index of
typical commercially-available materials (Larney et al., compost stability (Bernal et al., 1998) with values of <1
2004). Soluble C and N (10 g compost extracted in denoting very stable or mature material. In the above
100 mL CaCl2) were determined using an automated ele- example (Larney et al., 1999), fresh manure had a NH4-
mental analyzer. N/NO3-N ratio of 378 while the finished compost had a
Carbon mineralization (Helgason et al., 2005) was esti- ratio of 0.91.
mated in an incubation study, for loamy sand and loam Larney et al. (2006) compared two traditional manure
soils amended with nine composts, two fresh manures management practices (fresh handling, stockpiling) with a
and alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) hay at a target rate of newer one (composting) in western Canada. Total C and
10 mg total C g1 soil. Soils were incubated at 25 °C for P concentrations were affected by handling treatment,
168 d. A P mineralization study (Zvomuya et al., 2006) while total N concentration was not. Dry matter, C, and
utilized chemical properties of eight composted and two N mass losses were significantly higher (P < 0.05) with
non-composted beef cattle manures to predict cumulative composting than with stockpiling. For example, compo-
P uptake and apparent P mineralization during a 363-d sting led to DM losses of 39.8% compared to 22.5% for
controlled environment chamber bioassay. Ten growth stockpiling. Carbon losses were 66.9% with composting
cycles of canola (Brassica napus L.) were raised in pots con- vs. 37.5% with stockpiling while N losses were 46.3% with
taining 2.5 kg of a Dark Brown Chernozemic clay loam soil composting and 22.5% with stockpiling. Composting
mixed with 0.04 kg of the amendments. Inorganic P fertil- allowed transport of 2 times as much P as fresh manure,
izer and an unamended control were included for compar- and 1.4 times as much as stockpiled manure on an ‘as is’
ison. All treatments received a nutrient solution containing basis. They viewed their study as one component in the lar-
an adequate supply of all essential nutrients, except P, ger context of a life cycle assessment of feedlot manure
which was supplied by the amendments. handling systems.
Using relationships derived from a dataset of >3000
3. Physical and chemical changes during composting samples, representing the decay spectrum from raw manure
to mature compost, Larney et al. (2005) proposed that
Despite winter air temperatures as low as 40 °C in measurement of either total carbon or ash content is suffi-
southern Alberta, windrow temperatures can be main- cient to estimate C, OM and DM mass changes during
tained at >60 °C (Larney et al., 2000). A drawback with composting of beef feedlot manure. The relationship
summer composting is the loss of moisture from the wind- between ash content and total C was defined by the
row by evaporative drying especially with high turning equation:
frequencies. This necessitates the haulage of water to win-
Ash content ðg kg1 Þ ¼ 968:9  1:797 ðtotal C; g kg1 Þ
drows which is an added expense. Larney et al. (2000)
found that water mass loss with winter composting (44% with an R2 value of 0.958 (P < 0.001***).
of initial) was significantly lower than that for summer The relationship between OM and total C was:
composting (83% of initial). However, summer composting
OM ðg kg1 Þ ¼ 31:1 þ 1:797 ðtotal C; g kg1 Þ:
resulted in higher volume reduction (72% of initial) than
winter composting (51% of initial) which resulted in lower Phosphogypsum (PG) is an acidic by-product of P fertil-
haulage requirements for the finished compost. Water con- izer manufacture and large stockpiles currently exist in
tent dropped from 0.70 kg kg1 at pen cleaning to Alberta. Zvomuya et al. (2005) examined co-composting
0.35 kg kg1 for finished compost. Water mass loss was of PG (at rates of 0, 40, 70, and 140 kg PG Mg1 manure
up to 80% (percent of initial). Dry matter (DM) losses were plus PG dry weight) with SBM and WBM. During the 99-d
3224 F.J. Larney, X. Hao / Bioresource Technology 98 (2007) 3221–3227

composting period, PG addition reduced total N loss by piled manure depended on the measuring technique and
0.11% for each 1 kg Mg1 increment in PG rate. Available emphasized the need for further validation of these
N at the end of composting was significantly higher for techniques.
WBM (2180 mg kg1) than SBM treatments (1820 mg
kg1). Due to the presence of S (160 g kg1) in the PG, 5. Pathogens, parasites and weed seeds
total S concentration in the final compost increased by
0.19 g kg1 for each 1 kg Mg1 increment in PG rate from There was a rapid decline in E. coli levels in the first 7 d
5.2 g total S kg1 without PG addition. Phosphogypsum of composting with >99.95% reduction even though wind-
(1.6 g kg1 P) addition had no significant effect on total P row temperatures averaged only 34–42 °C (Larney et al.,
concentration of the final composts. Results from this 2003). After one month E. coli was no longer detectable
study demonstrate the potential of PG addition to reduce by culturing methods. There was no difference between
overall N losses during composting. The accompanying SBM and WBM compost in E. coli levels or persistence.
increase in total S content has benefits for use of the end- Desiccation likely played a minor role in coliform reduc-
product on sulfur-deficient soils for crops with high S tion, since water loss was low (<0.07 kg kg1) in the first
demand. 7 d of composting. However, total aerobic heterotroph
populations remained high (>7.0 log10 CFU g1 dry wt.)
4. Greenhouse gas emissions throughout the composting period possibly causing an
antagonistic effect toward coliform bacteria. Land applica-
Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous tion of compost, with its non-detectable levels of E. coli
oxide (N2O) are GHGs. Since CH4 is 21 times more harm- compared to raw manure, should minimize environmental
ful, and N2O 310 times more harmful, than CO2 in their risk in areas of intensive livestock production.
global warming effects, GHG emissions are often expressed Cattle are hosts for parasitic protozoa such as Giardia
as CO2-C equivalents. In a 1997 study, GHG emissions and Cryptosporidium excreting billions of infective organ-
from actively aerated composting (with turning) were isms (Smith and Smith, 1990). Thus, there is potential for
401 kg CO2-C Mg1 of manure compared with 240 CO2- transmission of these parasites from animal to human
C Mg1 of manure for passively aerated composting (Fayer and Ungar, 1986) and public concern is increasing
(Hao et al., 2001). Hao et al. (2004) reported that most C that Giardia infections in ruminants and other animals
was lost as CO2 with CH4 accounting for <6%. However, pose a serious zoonotic threat to humans (Adam, 1991).
the net contribution to GHG emissions was greater for In a study of composting of fecal samples containing Giar-
CH4 since it is 21 times more effective at trapping heat than dia cysts and Cryptosporidium oocysts, Van Herk et al.
CO2. N2O emissions were 0.077 kg N Mg1 for SBM and (2004) found that the percentage of viable Cryptospori-
0.084 kg N Mg1 for WBM, accounting for 1–6% of total dium oocysts declined gradually over a 31 d period in
N loss. Total GHG emissions as CO2-C equivalent were 1998. In 1999, a rapid decline in viability of Giardia cysts
not significantly different between SBM (368 ± 19 kg and Cryptosporidium oocysts occurred once compost win-
Mg1) and WBM (349 ± 24 kg Mg1). drow temperature exceeded 55 °C and viabilities of both
In another study, Hao et al. (2005) found that PG addi- parasites were reduced to zero after 42 d in SBM compost
tion reduced GHG emissions (CO2-C equivalent) during and after 56 d in WBM compost. The faster reduction in
composting of livestock manure by at least 58%, primarily SBM may be due to higher composting temperatures.
due to reduced CH4 emission. The effect was likely one of Windrow temperature was higher in SBM than WBM
inhibition or competition effects on CH4 production due to from Day 10 to Day 17 in 1998 (P < 0.05) and from
the presence of S in the PG at a concentration of 148 g Day 3 to Day 42 in 1999 (P < 0.10). Desiccation may also
kg1. There was a exponential decrease in CH4 emission have played a role in reducing the parasites. In 1999,
as compost total S content increased with increasing rate water content decreased from 0.65 kg kg1 in fresh SBM
of PG addition. Emission of N2O was not significantly to 0.29 kg kg1 for finished compost and from 0.61 to
affected by PG addition, although it was negatively corre- 0.32 kg kg1 for WBM.
lated with compost pH. Another example of the sanitization effect of composting
Sommer et al. (2004) found that NH3 emissions mea- relates to F. graminearum (Fusarium head blight) in cereals.
sured with the IHF and bLS techniques were similar. Peri- Some southern Alberta farmers are reluctant to spread
odic measurements of emissions of CO2 with the IHF fresh manure as they may potentially spread the disease.
technique by taking air samples with syringes and measur- Infected cereal seed in cattle feed can end up in manure
ing CO2 and CH4 concentrations on a gas chromatograph, due to spillage at feed troughs. The manure is then
were similar to continuous measurements with the IHF removed at pen cleaning and spread on adjacent fields, pro-
technique measuring gas concentrations with an infrared viding a disease ‘bridge’ to subsequent crops. Turkington
gas monitor. However, emissions of CO2, CH4 and N2O et al. (2005) found that composting significantly reduced
measured with the static vented chamber technique were or eliminated Fusarium on infected wheat (Triticum
12–22% of that measured with the IHF technique. They aestivum L.) and corn (Zea mays L.) seed, mitigating the
concluded that measurements of gas emissions from stock- dissemination of the disease.
F.J. Larney, X. Hao / Bioresource Technology 98 (2007) 3221–3227 3225

In a weed seed viability study (Larney and Blackshaw, post. Compost 6 was the most stable with a C/N ratio of
2003), weed seeds were buried in retrievable nylon-mesh 9.6.
bags in compost windrows. The bags were recovered at var- Soluble C consists largely of organic compounds that
ious stages of thermophilic composting. Germinability was are easily decomposed by soil microbes. Consequently,
zero for all composted weed seeds at all sampling times in organic amendments with high soluble C fractions, and
1997. However, some seeds remained viable (positive tetra- hence less mature, may contribute less to long-term soil
zolium test denoting respiration) on Day 70. In 1999, only OM reserves, and may have a more immediate stimulatory
one of the 13 species retained germinability on Day 21 and effect on soil microbial populations (Helgason et al., 2005).
only two species had respiring seeds on Day 42. Time– There was about a 4-fold difference in soluble C. Compost
viability relationships during composting were defined by 2 had the highest value (21.9 g kg1) while Compost 7 had
exponential decay models. Lethal temperatures to reduce the lowest (5.1 g kg1). Also, Compost 2 had the highest
viability were species-dependent. In 1999, four weed species proportion of C in soluble form (16.8%) compared with
were killed in the initial 7 d of composting at a lethal tem- only 1.1% in Compost 5.
perature of 39 °C while temperatures of >60 °C were Soluble N is comprised of inorganic N (plant-available
required for two species. Regression analysis on weed seed nitrate-N + ammonium-N) as well as the easily-mineraliz-
viability versus windrow temperature resulted in significant able organic N fraction. Consequently, amendments with
R2 values, which showed that only 17–29% of the variation high soluble N concentrations (e.g., Composts 1, 2, 3 with
in viability was accounted for by temperature. Larney and values of 12.9–19.7% of N in soluble form), and hence not
Blackshaw (2003) concluded that the lack of definitive rela- as mature, probably have a higher short-term release of
tionships between temperature and weed seed viability plant-available N than amendments with low soluble N
demonstrated that factors other than temperature may play (e.g., Compost 4 with only 3.7% N in soluble form). This
a role in reducing viable weed seeds during composting. higher release is an advantage if plants are present to utilize
the available forms of N but may be a disadvantage if
available N levels exceed plant uptake, since some of the
6. Quality of feedlot manure composts from southern Alberta
excess nitrate-N may be converted to N2O or leached to
groundwater.
Of the eight composts obtained from commercial feed-
lots in Alberta (Table 1), total C varied from 125 g kg1
in Compost 7 to 420 g kg1 in Compost 5 with a mean of 7. Compost mineralization studies
228 g kg1. The very high value in Compost 5 suggests that
the material was immature as C concentration decreases Studies focusing on compost nutrient mineralization
during composting as microbes use C and emit CO2 (Hao seek to elucidate nutrient release rates once composts are
et al., 2004). Total N values showed a 2-fold difference with applied to soil. In an incubation study, Helgason et al.
Compost 7 having only 10.3 g kg1 total N while Compost (2005) found a significant interaction between amendment
6 had 21.6 g kg1 total N. This means that twice as much of and soil type on C mineralization, but generally the effect
Compost 7 vs. 6 would have to be hauled in order to supply of soil texture (loamy sand with 830 g kg1 sand vs. loam
similar amounts of total N to a soil. with 430 g kg1 sand) on amendment decomposition was
Carbon/nitrogen ratio is an index of compost stability, small. The composts were very dissimilar in composition
decreasing during the composting process to values and resulted in substantial differences in the amount of C
approaching 10:1. Compost 5 still had a C/N ratio of retained in the soils (2–39% C added evolved as CO2).
30:1 indicating that it was closer to fresh manure than com- Total C evolved during the incubation period could be

Table 1
Carbon and nitrogen properties of eight feedlot manure composts from southern Alberta feedlots, 2002
Compost Total C Total N C/N ratio Soluble C Soluble N C in soluble N in soluble
(g kg1) (g kg1) (g kg1) (g kg1) form (%) form (%)
1 223 20.2 11.0 11.1 2.6 5.0 12.9
2 130 10.9 11.9 21.9 2.1 16.8 19.3
3 194 11.7 16.6 17.3 2.3 8.9 19.7
4 311 19.1 16.3 6.1 0.7 2.0 3.7
5 420 13.9 30.2 4.7 0.9 1.1 6.5
6 208 21.6 9.6 17.5 2.2 8.4 10.2
7 125 10.3 12.1 5.1 0.6 4.1 5.8
8 212 20.2 10.5 6.9 1.7 3.3 8.4
Mean 228 16.0 14.8 11.3 1.6 6.2 10.8
S.D. 97 5 6.7 6.7 0.8 5.1 6.0
c.v. (%) 43 30 46 59 48 83 56
S.D.: standard deviation; c.v.: coefficient of variation.
3226 F.J. Larney, X. Hao / Bioresource Technology 98 (2007) 3221–3227

predicted from the NH4-N content and the NH4-N/NO3-N measured parameters (total C, total N, C/N ratio, soluble
ratio of the composted manures (R2 = 0.91–0.93). Helga- C, soluble N, % C in soluble form, % N in soluble form)
son et al. (2005) suggested that estimation of the C retained ranged from 30–83% (Table 1). This demonstrates that
in soils amended with compost, as a function of simple composts (even those emanating from feedstocks of feedlot
chemical properties of the compost, provides an important manure + straw or wood chip bedding) are not all created
tool for evaluating the effectiveness of compost as a soil equally. This variation may be due to the type and amount
amendment, helping to calculate net retention of C. of bedding, animal age, or feed or supplements used.
In a P mineralization study, Zvomuya et al. (2006) Mixing of underlying soil into compost windrows during
found that cumulative P uptake was similar for compost windrow turning may also dilute nutrient levels. As part
(50.0 mg kg1 soil) and manure (45.7 mg kg1 soil) and of a nutrient management plan, testing of composts is
for the latter and fertilizer P (31.5 mg kg1 soil), but signif- recommended before land application to account for this
icantly higher for the organic amendments than the control variability. Testing would also allow prediction of minerali-
(18.7 mg kg1 soil) and for the composts than fertilizer zation rates based on compost properties.
P. Apparent phosphorus recovery (APR) of compost The level of future adoption of composting in southern
P (48%) was significantly lower than that of manure P Alberta may be dictated by upcoming regulatory change. If
(66%), but there was no significant difference in APR land application rates are to be dictated by manure P con-
between the organic amendments and fertilizer (54%). Par- tent, as is being considered, then a larger land base will be
tial least squares regression indicated that only two para- required to accommodate the lower application rates per-
neters (total water-extractable P and total P concentrations) mitted. This will increase the radius of manure haulage
were adequate to model uptake of compost-derived P, from source, hence making the composting option more
explaining 81% of the variation in uptake. These results attractive.
suggest that P availability from land-applied composts
can be adequately predicted from two simple compost Acknowledgements
chemical measurements. Accurate prediction of P availabil-
ity may help tailor land application of manure to plant We thank Andrew Olson, Paul DeMaere, Greg Travis
needs and prevent bioavailable P build-up and subsequent and Brian Handerek for technical assistance. This paper
loss to sensitive aquatic systems. is Lethbridge Research Centre contribution no. 38705056.

8. Conclusions References

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