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Pile Structure in Large Animal Carcass Compost Piles: Zone Differences in Physical and Chemical Characteristics

Seekins, William, Hutchinson, Mark, King, Mark, MacDonald, George
Compost science & utilization 2015 v.23 no.2 pp. 67-86
ammonia, animals, bulk density, carbon, chemical composition, color, composts, management systems, metals, nitrogen, nutrients, physicochemical properties, soil, texture
A project measuring and comparing physical and chemical parameters within different zones of carcass compost piles built on two different surfaces was conducted in 2011. Physical and chemical parameters reflect processes within the carcass compost piles. Information gathered could be useful in improving carcass compost management systems. Previous work has revealed zones in carcass compost piles that are visually distinguishable (Rynk et al. 1992), however, only a few of these zones have had their physical and chemical characteristics analyzed. Data collected from three carcass compost piles on the soil and three on impervious platforms were analyzed for nutrients, bulk density, moisture, pH, conductivity, and metals. The carcass compost piles developed an identifiable structure with zones that could be distinguished based on color, texture, moisture and chemical composition. There was statistical significance between zones for all measured parameters except total carbon in all piles. This structure appears to help minimize nitrogen losses by intercepting both soluble N in fluids and gaseous ammonia and concentrating them in the organic material. Measurements in the bottom zone built on impervious surfaces only, revealed that water flowing under these piles was a significant mechanism for nutrient loss.