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Coming to a field near you…

A carbon-rich soil amendment, windrow-composted from local organics and prized by home gardeners, could soon be added to farmers’ fields.

The City of Brandon is working with researchers at Assiniboine Community College to find out how to prepare its compost for commercial use by the industry.

compost pile Eastview

The rows of compost in the background are in various stages of curing. The finished product is in the foreground.


Compost organics Eastview

These household organics collected through the curbside program will soon become carbon-rich compost.

It’s the kind of material that starts a gardener’s green thumb twitching – dark, velvety, crumbly compost.

And, there’s a mountain of it at the Eastview Landfill site.

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For over twenty years, tonnes of yard waste, grass clippings, wood, manure and straw have been diverted from landfill cells into what has become Manitoba’s leading large-scale composting operation.

The compost provides an ideal top dressing for landfill cells.

When used as daily cover, compost provides bio filtering effects to reduce emission of odorous gases and methane, says the Compost Council of Canada.

It also prevents pests from entering the cell, and makes it airtight.

Compost incorporated into final capping speeds the establishment of new vegetation and helps prevent wind and water erosion.

The City expanded the compost operation when it began collecting household organic waste in 2009 through an 18-month pilot program with 500 households.

This was followed by a permanent, voluntary, ‘Green Cart’ curbside program in 2013, with an initial capacity for 3000 households.

Another 2000 homes were later added in 2014.

By year’s end 1500 tonnes of household organics had been composted.

Now, the City is working on a plan to take its compost product to the next level.

“We have to look at what else we can do,” says the City’s Public Works manager, Pam Penner.

“If we continue to increase the amount of material we collect there has to be a commercial end use for our compost.

There are endless possibilities and huge opportunities.”

The City of Brandon’s current market development initiative is focused on the agriculture industry.

“We are working with researchers at Assiniboine Community College and Brandon Research Centre to find out what we need to do to prepare our compost for commercial use by the industry,” Pam says.

These plans fit right in with the Manitoba Composts program.

Introduced by the Province this past June, the program is designed to encourage diversion of organics from landfills and into compost operations.

• Facilities annually processing a minimum of 2,500 tonnes or organic waste will receive a $10 per tonne incentive payment.

• Capital funding is available for:

municipal organic waste collection systems

compost facility enhancement

specialized compost equipment purchases.

• Funding for compost research, training, promotion and market development is also available.

An increased focus on the value of building carbon reserves in agricultural soil bodes well for the commercial compost industry.

Carbon is the principal ingredient in organic matter and plays a vital role in maintaining soil structure, fertility and water retaining capacity.

The erosion of organic matter and the resulting loss of soil carbon has become a serious problem worldwide.

Ducks Unlimited reports that more than half the organic matter in Canada’s prairie soils has been lost over the last century.

Soil researchers are playing catch-up in a bid to find efficient ways to boost carbon stock.

Their knowledge of what makes up soil organic matter (SOM) is being reevaluated due the discovery, in 1996 by the U.S. Agricultural Research Service (ARS), of glomalin,  a ‘soil super glue’ that appears to only be produced by Mycorrhizal fungi.

According to ARS, “the identification of this sticky protein threw out the existing theory that humic acid, a product of decaying plants, was the main contributor to soil carbon.

But humic acid contributes only about 8 percent of the carbon in soil while glomalin accounts for 27 percent.

Glomalin penetrates organic matter, binding it to silt, sand, and clay particles.

Clumps of soil granules are formed, which adds structure to the soil and keeps other stored soil carbon from escaping.

This type of soil structure is stable enough to resist wind and water erosion, but porous enough to let air, water, and roots move through it.

It also harbors more beneficial microbes, holds more water, and helps the soil surface resist crusting.

Researchers are focusing on soil microbiology in their search for ways to increase the soil’s ability to absorb and hold carbon.

And, commercial compost will be in demand to further this process. Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner sees compost as “the perfect vehicle for delivering, enhancing, and sustaining beneficial soil microbes and their communities.

The opportunities for compost to play a major role in sustainable agriculture and other soil-based endeavours will grow in tandem with new discoveries and applications.”

The value of finished compost to larger scale operations has often been overlooked, in part because a suitable commercial product wasn’t readily available.

However, the Composting Council of Canada reports that the composting industry has matured over the past decade and is ready to take the next step.

“As we shift our focus from simple waste diversion to production and promotion of a marketable commodity, we are faced with very underdeveloped demand.

Prioritizing active market development is key in our drive to ensure that organics recycling are sustainable.”

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How to sit fit at your keyboard and monitor.

Jordan Ludwig, owner, Brandon Business Interiors

Jordan Ludwig, owner, Brandon Business Interiors

Here are some tips on positioning courtesy of Allseating: 

The key to keying

Using a keyboard tray to help prevent wrist pain and repetitive strain injuries.

While keying, keep your arms at right angles (aim for 90 degrees) and close to your body.

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Your wrists should be straight so you don’t see any wrinkles.

Keep your mouse close to the keyboard – preferably on a mousing platform – to minimize reaching.

Monitoring your posture

Your monitor height keeps your back straight and your head up, which is crucial to avoiding neck strain and injuries.

Align your monitor so it’s centered between your shoulder blades and positioned about an arm’s length away from your face.

The height should be so that the top line of text you’re reviewing is at or just below eye level.

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