Composting is taking diverse organic material and making a habitat for the microbes that will process the material. Jean Bonhotal, Director of Cornell Waste Management Institute in the Department of Soils and Crop Sciences explains that there are three necessary ingredients to make a great compost. First, the pile should start with carbon-like woodchips to help move air through. Second, add in wet waste like food or pomace. And third, top the pile with carbon.
The most important factor in making compost is temperature. In fact, you do not need to turn piles. The organisms that break down compost generate temperatures that are about 90 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. A great example of this is seen in mortality composting, used for livestock. These piles are created by layering 24 inches of woodchips, followed by the animal, and top with another 24 inches of wood chips. The animal will liquefy and then everything starts to mix as the microbes work. In 12 to 24 hours the pile will reach the desired 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
While compost is not technically a fertilizer it has numerous benefits including imparting nutrients, pest resistance, helping with erosion control, and improving water holding capacity because it works like a sponge. Listen in to hear Jean’s best advice on how to create great compost.
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Craig Macmillan 0:00
My guest today is Jean Bonhotal. She is Director of the Cornell Waste Management Institute. And he's also a Senior Extension Associate in the Integrative Plant Science Soil and Crop Science Section at Cornell University. And we're talking about compost today. Thanks for being here, Jean.
Jean Bonhotal 0:13
Craig Macmillan 0:14
I like to start with basics when we're talking about a topic. And sometimes it seems kind of silly, but it oftentimes shapes what we talk about. Let's start with a very basic definition. What exactly is compost.
Unknown Speaker 0:26
So I'm going to start with a definition before I get into composting, and that is what is organic, what is organic? When I'm using the term organic, this is what it will mean something that was once alive and is now dead, and needs to be managed. That comes with all different types of quality. But we are usually looking for clean feedstocks, that are organic in origin. So we don't want glass and plastic and other materials that really don't break down and have put a lot of plastic into our environment, because they break down into little tiny pieces, and they're still there. So I'll start with that. Composting is basically taking organic material, all different diverse, organic materials, preferably, and making a habitat for microbes, the microbes that are going to pro
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