University Of FLorida Will “Force” Compost To The Next Level

Paul Kimpel

Everett Emino, (352) 392-7935

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers say that food, paper and yard waste comprise 40 percent of Florida’s municipal waste, yet little attention has been paid to recovering those organic resources.

Everett R. Emino, professor of environmental horticulture with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said that in addition to the abundance of organic matter, Florida has many farms, a crucial part of any composting program.

To capitalize on those resources, the state has given a $3.5 million, five-year grant to Sumter County, where one of the nation’s leading waste facilities is located in Sumterville. In turn, the county has awarded a $168,000-a-year grant to UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) to provide research expertise and education for the new Florida Organics Recycling Center for Excellence (FORCE).

The Sumter County Solid Waste Facility in Sumterville will be the FORCE site. Emino said it’s a perfect match for IFAS because the facility has the infrastructure in place that will allow FORCE to quickly become functional.

Emino said he wants to “bring compost to the next level” by incorporating the latest scientific and technological advances into the project.

“We are going to create new types of designer compost,” Emino said. “By controlling what goes into the process, we can be very specific regarding the final product to meet the demands of end-users, which range from home gardeners to commercial farmers.”

The grant will be administered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which recently approved FORCE’s operating plan after review by its technical advisory group. The group, comprised of representatives from the public and private sectors, includes organic producers and processors, soil product blenders, marketers, growers, and others involved in organic recycling.

The plan calls for building a compost digester, an office, a laboratory and a demonstration farm on the site. Once the digester is completed, it will generate compost products using a variety of feedstocks. The advisory group will determine the selection of feedstocks, and the products will be aimed specifically at Florida’s end-user markets.

“We want to bring together leaders in academic research and solid waste management to provide practical solutions for the industry,” Emino said. “We will select the materials that go into the process so the product meets the needs of the end-user.”

In addition to Emino, who will manage the resource and education program, participants include FORCE co-directors Gary Breeden, director of Sumter County Public Works Department, Miriam Zimms, project coordinator for Kessler Consulting Inc., and Wayne Smith, professor of forestry and director of UF’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation.

Additional UF personnel for FORCE will include a post-doctoral research associate, an agricultural field technician and a multi-county extension educator. The Web site for the project is:

At the facility, a portion of the 40-acre site will include an irrigation system for field experiments and technology demonstrations. Emino said Florida’s portion of the organic waste stream can provide products such as mulches, composts, growing media and soil amendments. Issues of water use, improved water holding capacity and nutrient retention will be studied.

To address environmental concerns, a three-member independent scientific advisory committee will be established.

Over the course of the five-year project, a variety of field projects will be conducted that relate to the practical application of organics recycling technologies and products. The project leaders expect that FORCE will be fully operational by November 2001.



Posted: September 18, 2001

Category: UF/IFAS

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