Training in production and utilization of composted waste materials in warm, humid climates to improve soils for horticultural cropping systems

Project Overview

ES01-056
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2001: $47,896.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $37,934.00
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Monica Ozores-Hampton
University of Florida/SWFREC

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Fruits: melons
  • Vegetables: beans, cauliflower, cucurbits, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: herbs, ornamentals

Practices

  • Animal Production: manure management, pasture fertility, pasture renovation, preventive practices
  • Crop Production: municipal wastes, nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers, application rate management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: biological control, compost extracts, integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: organic matter, composting, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, public participation, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration

    Abstract:

    Extension agents, NRCS conservationists, waste and compost producers, University researchers, state and local government regulators, and conventional and organic farmers were able to learn composting principles and promote the improvement of soil physical, chemical and biological properties by the correct use of composts. A planning meeting and three two-days compost short-courses funded by SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) were held during February, March and October 2002 and February and March 2003. A total of 230 people attended the training sessions. The lectures were used to explain compost principles and the subjects covered included: composting principles and biology, compost site safety, compost quality and testing, compost feedstock, composting rules and regulations, record keeping, and compost utilization on specific crops. During the “hands-on” sessions at the compost facility, participants applied the concepts they had learned by mixing feedstocks, sampling composts, and using field tests for compost quality. To evaluate the effectiveness of the training, pre and post-tests were administered before and after the training program. Additionally, the trainees were personally contacted four months after the training sessions to evaluate their input and their needs to continue compost production, use, and education. Each participant received a free compost training manual with copies of lectures; publications about compost; a list of resources for compost web-sites, testing and equipment; a list of participants; and copies of three books: “On-farm Composting Handbook”, “Compost Use in Florida” and “Recycling Yard Trash: Best Management Practices Manual for Florida”. The comparison of the pre and post-test indicated that there were significant positives changes in the knowledge and attitudes about compost and composting. All the trainees expressed a positive feedback about the overall outcome of the training and many of them are beginning to use compost in their operations or encourage its use by others. An interesting consensus emerged from discussions at the end of the day: the only thing hindering compost production and use is lack of education of agricultural professionals and consumers. A “train the trainers” program teaching scientifically-based principles of compost production and use can be the seed for encouraging the use of organic “wastes” from cities and farms as sources for soil improvement for fruit, vegetable, and ornamental production.

    Project objectives:

    1. Agricultural professionals and compost producers who participate will be able to teach composting principles and promote the improvement of soil physical, chemical and biological properties by the correct use of composts. Our specific goals were:
    • 50% of farmer participants will begin making compost and 100% of farmer participants will begin using compost from local sources.
    • Extension agents should present at least one program on compost production or use or set up at least one results demonstration using compost in the year following the training.
    • NRCS conservationists will assist at least one farmer with compost production or use during the year following the training.
    • FSA professionals will be able to analyze applications of farmers who need help with funding for composting facilities or who wish to use it on their crops.
    • Compost producer participants should raise the quality of their compost by using proper testing methods.
    2. Personal interaction between representatives of the diverse communities will increase communication and strengthen their working relationships to expand the use of compost as an element of sustainable production systems. For instance, a trainer farmer who wishes to begin composting at her farm or help a neighbor to use compost, will now know that she can contact Florida Organic Recycling Association (FORA) members for information on availability of compost feedstocks and Cooperative Extension for information on testing and using the compost.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.