Agricultural Composting Basics

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Composting is the biological decomposition of organic materials by microorganisms under controlled, aerobic conditions to a relatively stable humus-like material called compost. Composting can happen in many different ways using a variety of materials, methods, equipment, and scales of operation. For agricultural operations the common materials or feedstocks that are composted are livestock manures and bedding and various residual plant materials (straw, culls, on-farm processing wastes, etc).

Traditionally some farmers allowed manure to pile up and it decomposed until they were ready to use it. Some have referred to this as composting. Composting is much more than just aging manure — it is a science. The decomposition occurs in a well-managed process to obtain specific positive results a valuable product with a minimum of negative environmental impacts.

Hugh Martin
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rurals Affairs