Compost for Carbon Sequestration on Irrigated Pasture

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2020: $49,746.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2023
Host Institution Award ID: G345-20-W7901
Grant Recipient: Colorado State University Extension
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
Retta Bruegger
Colorado State University Extension
Dr. Megan Machmuller
Colorado State University

Information Products


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine, equine, goats, sheep
  • Animal Products: meat


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Energy: byproduct utilization
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Soil Management: composting, organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Climate change threatens the viability of ranching and farming and poses impacts to society as a whole. Simultaneously, a disconnect between research and application by ranchers diminishes the ability of both to respond in an adaptive way. We propose to test a potential intervention for sequestering carbon, while integrating ranchers into the research process. Compost applications on rangelands and pasturelands may provide a win-win scenario for producers and society. Research indicated a 1-time application of compost increased soil organic matter content, enhanced plant growth, and contributed to climate change mitigation in California’s rangelands (Silver et al 2018). Though promising, these results are untested in western Colorado, an area with substantial soil and climatic differences from the locations of the original trials. Research and outreach will be integrated in this project. Producers and stakeholders will participate directly in research through iterative meetings where they will assist in interpretation of the data analyses and ultimately help develop recommendations based on the findings. The project outcomes include 1) recommendations in terms of the appropriateness of the practice for western Colorado pasturelands based on our findings, and 2) an engaged group of stakeholders who have direct experience participating in a scientific process.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Research Objectives

    1. Test the efficacy for western Colorado pastures of compost application using field trails, replication, and controls by 2022.
    2. Test the efficacy of a 1-time compost application to increase grass productivity.
    3. Test the efficacy of a 1-time compost application to sequester carbon and increase soil organic matter.
    4. Test the impact of a 1-time compost application on species composition.

    Outreach Objectives

    1. Assemble a stakeholder group of producers and interested parties to advise, contribute and comment on research activities. Stakeholders will meet 3-5 times over the course of the project. We will meet 1) before the initial application of compost, 2) at the end of the first field season to assess how things went, and 3) after field results have been analyzed to interpret and discuss finding, and consider barriers and advantages to implementation, and develop recommendations.
    2. Present findings at the annual Delta Soil Health Conference (February each year in Delta, CO), Pasture Plot Field day (October every year in Hotchkiss, CO), and the Field Day at the Fruita Agricultural Experiment Station (summer/ fall).
    3. Compose article for the Small Acreage newsletter for spring 2022 (Circulation 6,000).
    4. Produce infographics and social media posts on the practice which we can post to our websites ( and and other affiliates including Global Rangelands: and social media outlets (Facebook: @ColoradoStewardship and Instagram: coloradostewardship) by summer 2022.
    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.