Woods End Laboratories

Healthy Soil

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Compost Quality Certification

Compost is not Static. Compost Quality appears to be a nebulous term made more difficult by the fact that compsot is never stable but always changing. Unlike soils, composts changes in a day or two what soils do only over years. Therefore, testing compost must take a fundamentally different approach.

Years of Research: Will Brinton has operated an active compost research unit alongside its soil testing since the 1980’s, and in this time has mapped out many of the forces and factors that result in excellent composts. But unlike soil science, composting has virtually no academic, scientific identify and is largely an industry-defined field.  As a scientific discipline the field is in a state of very slow evolution, largely held back by being embedded in politics.

Gov’t & Industry Input: Government regulatory bodies and private trade associations have played a significant role in politically promoting composting, yet from a broad perspective have had a debilitating effect on the science of composting.  Chemists and biologists observing the field from the outside have remarked that in fact what is being described in the rules and tests are not composts but only predefined terms industry has compromised over.  On scrutiny, this kind of commercialized regulatory science is unable to stand on its own. This is not unusual in young  industries, and is a source of continued vulnerability.

The Science of Composting: In contrast, the active science of composting is a hugely dynamic and growing field. Yet, unlike soil science, compost science does not have a precedent  of prior academic work and extension to rely upon. As a biological process composting is open ended, there is no specific governing law of nature that directs it, for it epitomizes  “biological drift”. It is fertile ground for discovery and invites combined disciplines as in soil and microbiology.

A Path through the Maze: Working with this dilemma, Will Brinton has been able to discern using  general system theory that certain complex groupings of compost attributes are recurrent and thereby fulfill the criteria of a whole, functioning system. System express themselves variously as types, and these can be  successfully matched to specific and desired end-uses in horticulture and farming. This enables an extremely practical interpretive structure to be established. A  mathematical model developed by Woods End is used to expose the types and is constantly updated so it “evolves” and is enriched with newer observations.

Open Source to Innovation: The combination of this “open-source” framework for testing and broad experience in the practice of actual composting means that Will Brinton’s lab is able to routinely offer innovation and breakthrough analysis. These tests can be framed in a fashion that readily fits the public and regulatory expectations for simplicity. The result is that clients of Will Brinton’s lab move rapidly forward in improving cost-effectiveness of the process and ecological tailoring for markets.



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