Woods End Laboratories

Healthy Soil

Healthy Science

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Compost Quality Validation

“In 2015, our compost operation began experiencing some significant onsite and occasional offsite odor. As a point of reference, we were processing around 4,500 tons per year of food scraps. We contacted Woods End Lab for advice and ended up sending in some samples for VOA detection. The results indicated very high levels of specific odorous volatile fatty acids. Consultation with Dr. Brinton allowed us to understand the impact of oxygen & moisture levels causing the release of odorous compounds. We were adjusted our compost recipe and made slight changes in the operation. A few weeks later, the odors were eliminated. We highly recommend Woods End Laboratories for VOA detection and follow up consultation”.
Tom Moreau – Green Mountain Compost, VT

Compost – an open system. Testing compost quality is challenging since compost, unlike soil, is rarely stable and never completed. Compost undergoes changes in a day that soils only exhibit over several seasons. Internationally, some labs now “qualify” a compost analysis by indicating a standardized point of organic solids, since it will change thereafter. Compost laboratory analyses therefore may have a short relevancy, particularly where end-use is concerned.

Long Experience and Research: Woods End Lab has operated an active compost analytic section alongside its soil testing since the 1980’s, and may be America’s first dedicated compost analysis lab.  Over the years 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 have the most advanced compost quality certification program to date.

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

  • Extent of degradation; C:N start/end,  respiration rate, free-ammonia, maturity traits;
  • Status of soluble salts in the product;
  • Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium content;
  • Presence/absence of anthropogenic contaminants; plastic, glass, pesticides
  • VOA (Volatile Fatty Acids) indicators of incompletely digested content such as food scraps

The Science of Composting: The science of compost testing is itself a dynamic and changing 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 soils. In the modern context of societal recycling, compost has taken on broader significance, requiring more forms and types of tests in order to be properly characterized with regard to potential and pitfalls.

A Path through the Maze: Working with these challenges, Woods End Labs employs principles of holistic resource management to examine and report on the complexity of compost systems, the inherent chemistry and the simple end-characterization for practical guidance.

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 with a list of your needs and we’ll respond with some suggestions.

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