Incorporating Wool-waste Into Compost to Develop Alternative Compost Products

Thursday, July 25, 2013: 4:15 PM
Desert Salon 1-2 (Desert Springs J.W Marriott Resort )
Tina Waliczek Cade , Texas State University, San Marcos, TX
Erica Jane Meier , Agriculture, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX
Gwendolyn Hustvedt , Texas State University, San Marcos, TX
Compost is used in many states as both a waste management alternative and a horticultural and agriculture-based resource.  Wool has historically been used in garden beds and anecdotal records from gardeners from the 1940s suggest beneficial effects on growth of plants.  Recent research found that wool or hair incorporated into the potted plant environment can improve the water-holding capacity of the soil as well as act as a slow-release fertilizer. Texas is the nation’s leading wool producer.   Waste and “tag” wool is readily available, inexpensive and considered low-quality because of weed seed contamination and stains from defecation.   The purpose of this research was to test the feasibility of composting waste wool to determine proper proportions of material to develop a viable alternative compost product to market.  Trial compost piles were constructed incorporating wool waste with proportions of various other feedstock ingredients including animal manures, university dining hall food waste, invasive river plants and horticultural production plant green waste, as well as tree-pruning waste and livestock bedding and straw to determine the best mixture of materials to create a product. Samples were sent to a certified compost quality testing lab and indicated that high quality composts were created.  Results also found that wool fibers can be incorporated into piles and that best decomposition occurs by supplying greater than normal amounts of moisture and nitrogen.  Additionally, results showed that the composting process was extended due to wool product being highly compacted upon receipt.