RI’s current compost research is focused on perfecting a method of composting that reliably supports the growth of a health soil food web and on improving the composting guidelines for certified organic farmers and composters.
Demonstration of Improved Compost Management to Effectively Utilize Animal Waste Nutrient Resources and Support Increased Soil Nutrient Retention (CIG Compost)
Rodale Institute, in collaboration with neighboring EQIP-eligible farmer James Burkholder and the local municipality of South Whitehall Township, has initiated a comparative composting demonstration, using uniform base materials (high-quality pelletized chicken manure, food waste, and municipal leaves) to illustrate the impacts of different compost pile management regimes on final compost quality, nutrient content, and nutrient retention, as well as on field soil quality and nutrient leaching after application. Two different compost management regimes (1: timed turning, based on National Organic Program (NOP) standards; and 2: temperature-related turning) will be demonstrated atop compost production pads fitted with drains to capture all precipitation and leachate that runs through each pile.
Farming Systems Trial
The Farming Systems Trial began in 1981 as a 5-year controlled study of what a typical American grain farmer would go through to give up chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and it has matured into a complex, interdisciplinary, collaborative project. The Farming Systems Trial (FST) has provided fundamental research data on topics ranging from drought-tolerance to yield potential to water quality to economic viability, and has inspired similar long-term trials at research institutions nationally and internationally.
The trial is a 12-acre, 72 plot trial that currently compares four replications of six farming systems. The farming systems vary in their crop rotations, inputs and tillage practices. In any given year there are 18 unique treatments present in FST. The goal of FST is to demonstrate sustainable, consistent yields in the organic systems while building ecosystem services.
So far, FST has demonstrated that, compared to conventional farming systems, organic systems can:
• produce competitive crop yields,
• improve soil and water quality,
• reduce crop damage in drought years, and
• sequester more carbon in the soil.