Training in production and utilization of composted waste materials in warm, humid climates to improve soils for horticultural cropping systems
The lack of knowledge about compost by agricultural professionals, results in either the failure to use it, or mistakes and problems with its production and use. Three one-day, short-course, compost training were held in February, March and October 2002. A total of 250 people attended the training sessions. Attendees included organic farmers, conventional farmers, compost producers, waste managers, extension agents, and regulatory agencies and Universities researchers. The training was divided into lectures and “hands-on” sessions at a compost facility. All participants received a free compost training manual and books. The comparison of the pre and post-test that were given, indicated that there was significant positives changes in the knowledge and attitudes about compost utilization and production. Many of the trainees are beginning to use compost in their operations or are encouraging its use by others.
1. Agricultural professionals and compost producers who participate are able to teach composting principles and promote the improvement the physical, chemical and biological properties of soil by the correct use of composts.
2. Our goals are:
• 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 its use, or set up at least one result 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.
3. 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 the farm, or help a neighbor to use compost, will now know that he can contact FORA members for information on the availability of compost feedstock’s and the Cooperative Extension for information on testing and using the compost.
Last year three one-day compost short-courses was successfully delivered. The compost training were held in February, March and October 2002. A total of 250 people attended the training sessions. Attendees included organic and conventional farmers, compost and waste producers, Extension agents, regulatory agencies and Universities researchers. 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 feedstock, sampling composts, and using field tests for compost quality. All participants received free compost training manuals 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. The books were “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 positive changes in the knowledge and attitudes about compost and composting.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
All the trainees gave very 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 the 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 seeds for encouraging the use of organic “wastes” from cities and farms as sources for soil improvement for fruit, vegetable, and ornamental production. A Few examples that represent the impact of the training are:
-A local compost facility sold out their compost last year (60,000 tons) to citrus and vegetables growers. At the same time the owners of the facility, enrolled in a compost Quality Assurance Program at Woods End Lab. to improve compost quality.
-A large specialty vegetable grower (600 acres of herbs and Asian crops) began its own “on-farm” composting operation. A total of 100,000 tons of raw organic feedstock’s were composted last year.
-A large citrus grower (14,000 acres) is in the preliminary steps of begging his own compost operation. His main objectives are to save water by using compost and increase cation exchange capacity in the sandy soils.
Florida A&M University
202-E Perry-Paige Building South
Tallahassee, FL 32307
Office Phone: 8505993546
University of Florida/SWFREC
2686 State Rd. 29 North
Immokalee, FL 34142-9515
Office Phone: 9416583400