New Web-based planning tool helps farmers meet stringent pollution rules for animal waste

Waste–management specialists at Cornell University have developed Co-Composter, a new Web-based tool that aims to help farm managers meet the increasingly stringent environmental regulations facing New York farmers.

Co-Composter, developed by Douglas Haith, professor of biological and environmental engineering, and Jean Bonhotal, composting specialist in the Cornell Waste Management Institute, is an Excel spreadsheet model for the planning of composting systems of dairy manure and other organic wastes.

“The model provides for many user inputs, such as manure and bedding type, quantity and physical characteristics…these parameters determine the size and type of facility, quality of compost to be generated and the costs associated with creating and running a compost operation,” said Haith.

The developers see the tool as a method for farm-based composters to make decisions about method, equipment and input material that will work best for their needs.

In the past year the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) collaborated with the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a strategy to minimise the polluting impact of Animal Feeding Operators (AFOs). The manure and wastewater produced from New York’s large livestock farms are creating nutrient pollutants and having hazardous impacts on water quality and public health. The USDA and EPA now require AFO’s to produce comprehensive nutrient management plans (CNMPs) in an effort to reduce these polluting effects.

Jean Bonhotol says: “Farm-based composting of manure is a nutrient management tool of increasing importance.” She acknowledges the regulations which are in place to control nutrient loading from livestock farms and claims Co-Composter can help farmers to comply with these controls.

Used as a planning tool the Co-Composter can produce outputs of average annual estimates for particular system type, rather than the actual characteristics of a constructed system, say the developers. They also claim it has the ability to estimate costs of composting operations relatively well, helping farmers to effectively produce more accurate and successful CNMPs for the long term perspective.

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