Since the beginning of agriculture farmers have relied on biological processes for enhancing soil nutrition. With the advent of chemical fertilizers in the early 1900s, many farmers discontinued the use of green manures, crop rotations, and animal manures. Additionally, many farmers only grow one or a few crops, and farmers usually either grow crops or livestock but not both. WSU has conducted extensive research on the use of compost as a soil amendment and source of nutrients. This work points out the need to understand the composition of a particular product (compost are highly variable) and how it acts in a soil, especially in terms of potential nutrient release. As an already-stabilized material, compost may be more useful for improving long-term soil quality and nutrient supply than as an immediate source of nutrients for crops. In addition, composting is used to manage municipal and mixed waste streams, leading to odor and contamination problems, and is being evaluated for its ability to break down organic chemical contaminants (e.g. hormones, antibiotics). Research and extension on these topics is now underway at WSU.

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