Composting Systems

in HortScience
Francis R. GouinDept. of Horticulture, Univ. of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742

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During the past decade, numerous commercial composting systems have been developed. Time, as well as economics, are determining which of these systems are feasible. Systems that take time but can operate at low cost are surviving, as are more costly systems capable of producing a mature compost in the shortest possible time. Which system to use can be determined by the amount of space available and the amount of feedstock to be composted. Where space is limited and the volume of feedstock is high, more intensively managed systems are necessary. When space is not a limiting factor, more passive systems may be adequate. Of the more costly system developed, those systems with the least amount of down time and with a high degree of versatility appear to be surviving. Although it is possible to optimize the rate of composting through good engineering and management, there exists a given time period, depending on the feedstock necessary to produce quality mature compost. Minimizing production time to the point where the quality of the compost is jeopardized will result in wide-spread rejection. As horticulturists, we must stand firm in demanding compost standards with qualities based on our needs. Based on the diversity of our industry, the horticultural industries are likely to be the largest potential users of commercial compost.

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