Compost Pile Monitoring

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Before the Pile is Built

Talk with the farmer and determine when he will be building a new compost pile. Find out how to contact him and share information about when and where to go

When the Pile is Built

Monitor on the first day the pile is built and on days 10, 30, and on the day the compost will be applied to the field; sometimes up to 6 months after the pile is built.) Only one pile will be monitored at each farm, but each pile will be monitored 4 times.

How to Monitor

  1. Determine the approximate size and shape of the pile. Heigth, width, length, and shape (i.e. trapezoidal, etc.) shoule be recorded. Take note of whether it is in an odd shape for volume consideration.
  2. On the first visit 2 or 3 data logging temperature probes should be placed into each pile and set to record every 30 minutes. These probes will run for 6 months before the program will quit recording. The probes must be "launched" with the Boxcar computer program at LEBRC before they can be used in the pile. Once the monitoring is completed, the data can be downloaded onto a computer for viewing and analyzing. (Currently there are 7 functional Onset temperature dataloggers; we will use those for the first couple piles but are going to start using a thermocouple datalogger instead; those need to be ordered and probes assembled)
  3. Take probe measurements with the Morgan Scientific (temperature, [math]O_2[/math], [math]CO_2[/math]) or Demista (temperature and [math]O_2[/math] only). Probe at 4 locations throughout the pile, approximately every 15 feet. If the pile is longer than 45 feet still probe at only 4 locations. Be consistent in the location of the measurements from one visit to the next. Record information such as date, time, and location in the pile, and the gas or temperature data. (If Morgan Scientific is not working use the Demista the first time or two.) On the first visit, take one of the analog thermometer probes to each farmer for their personal use; provide data logging sheets if they are interested in checking the temperature on their own.
  4. On each visit, take samples from the pile at a location near where each of the probe measurements were taken (a total of 4 composite samples). At 4 or 5 different spots around the sampling site, take one sub-sample after digging in 1 foot and another at 2 feet. Combine the 9 or 10 sub-samples in a 5 gallon bucket, mix, and collect one composite sample. Collect enough to fill a one-gallon ziploc bag. If the material is very light and dry it may have to be packed in tightly in order to get a large enough mass to analyze.
  5. Collect compost samples to be sent to the Iowa Testing Labs for NIR characterization