Woods End Laboratories

Healthy Soil

Healthy Science

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Compost Quality Validation

What’s your compost made-of? Typical ingredients in modern composting can be manure, grass, biosolids, post-consumer food waste and industrial bio-products. These pose a challenge for routine laboratory work.

Compost – an open system. Testing compost quality is challenging since compost, unlike soil, is rarely stable. Compost may undergo changes in a day that soils only experience over several seasons. In Europe, labs are expected to “qualify” a compost analysis by indicating the standardized point at which it was tested. Compost laboratory analyses have a very, very short relevancy.

Long Experience and Research: Woods End Lab has operated an active compost analytic section alongside its soil testing since the 1980’s.  In this time we have mapped out many of the forces and factors that influence compost quality. From this we have arrived at a set of tests which focus on the most pertinent traits in view of agricultural and horticultural end-use. We leave regulatory compliance testing to others.

Crucial Parameters: Traits of compost that are unique to the product and to its end-use include the following:

  • Extent of degradation; C:N,  respiration rate, free-ammonia, Solvita traits
  • Status of soluble salts in the product
  • Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium content
  • Presence/absence of anthropogenic contaminants; plastic, glass, pesticides

The Science of Composting: The science of compost testing is a dynamic field.  It originated in a farmer based movement in the early 20th century that concerned itself with managing and returning nutrients and organic matter to the farm. In the modern context of societal recycling, compost has taken on an entirely different perspective, requiring many forms and sets of tests in order to be properly characterized.

A Path through the Maze: Working with these challenges, Woods End Labs has employed principles of holistic resource management to examine and report on the complexity of compost systems, while arriving at a simple and practical analytic solution.

Open Source to Innovation: The combination of an “open-source” framework for testing and broad experience in the practice and use of  compost means that Woods End lab is able to routinely pin-point needed analyses. The result is that clients of Woods End move rapidly forward in appropriately characterizing their process and product.

Contact us: Email us at the lab  @ woodsend.org with a list of your needs and we’ll respond with some suggestions.



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