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News Release

Partnership Project to Test Innovative Solution to Composting Dilemma

Alica Ketchem / Bobby Clark /Jeremy Daubert
(804) 287-1654 / (540) 459-6140 / (540) 564-3080

Richmond, VA –Virginia farmers can now sign up to participate in a new Virginia Tech demonstration project to test bone screening methods that may remove barriers to composting large animal mortality (LAM) for land application.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has awarded $66,138 in grant funding to encourage more widespread adoption of this preferred management method. Offered through the Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program, the funding will be used to evaluate and demonstrate the benefits of using a bucket grinder for bone removal from LAM compost on 75 to 100 Virginia farms.

Project organizers will demonstrate the use of additional bone screening methods, evaluate the nutrient content of screened LAM compost, and provide guidance and support for beneficial reuse by land application. While most activity will be focused in the Shenandoah Valley, producers statewide are encouraged to contact their local extension office to express interest in testing the bucket grinder.

“We started working on composting large animal mortality about 10 years ago and discovered that the remaining bones were still an issue,” says Project Director Bobby Clark, Senior Extension Agent. “On almost every farm, the finished compost accumulates and is not land applied. We’ve been working on a solution for about eight years and are looking forward to putting it in place.”

Virginia Cooperative Extension actually paved the way for expanded use of this practice through many on-farm demonstrations and presentations at educational meetings. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) also developed guidance documents that allow on-farm composting of LAM without permit requirements.

“While composting is the preferred disposal method, many farmers will not spread this material on their farmland because they do not have a practical way to remove the bones,” adds DEQ Director David K. Paylor. “Commercial bone screening equipment is not currently available for rental. We hope to change that by supporting efforts that reach out to local agribusinesses to demonstrate the economic benefits of providing this service to Virginia farmers.”

 “Over the past decade, our conservation partners have made significant progress in their efforts to facilitate on-farm composting of LAM in Virginia,” says Bricker. “NRCS is supporting these efforts through cost-sharing on-farm composting systems and collaborating with Virginia Tech and DEQ to remove remaining barriers.”

Virginia CIG grants are awarded for projects between one and three years duration with individual awards not exceeding $75,000.  Entities and individuals, including state and local units of government, and non-governmental organizations, are eligible to apply for these competitive grants. Learn more about Virginia CIGs.

For more information on this CIG project, contact Extension Agents Bobby Clark 540-459-6140 or Jeremy Daubert at 540-564-3080.