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Waste Not, Want Not

WSU researchers are internationally recognized leaders in composting. Composting is the management of the decomposition of organic material, and is a way of speeding up what happens in the soil naturally. Yard wastes and vegetable scraps, which comprise as much as 20 percent of household garbage, can be recycled in the soil as compost.

Lynne Carpenter-Boggs
Lynne Carpenter-Boggs

WSU researchers and educators have helped expand the use of composting and nutrient recycling for safe, sustainable waste management; worked to increase the use and effectiveness of compost as an agricultural soil amendment and nutrient source; and sought to improve our understanding of composts and extracts as a resource for plant disease management.

In contrast to many processed fertilizers, compost benefits plants because nutrients are released into the soil slowly, rather than in a large initial dose that then tapers off. Associate Professor of Horticulture Preston Andrews said that “compost feeds the soil so that the soil microorganisms can provide readily available nitrogen and other nutrients that plants need, but in a more slow-release fashion than synthetic fertilizers do.”

As coordinator of WSU’s Biologically Intensive Agriculture and Organic Farming program, Lynne Carpenter-Boggs identifies and applies strengths across disciplines to study and document the effectiveness of BIOAg farming techniques. Her research focuses on maximizing the value of biological nitrogen sources and compost methods and products. BIOAg is an interdisciplinary program that involves researchers and resources from multiple WSU colleges and departments.


“Biologically intensive,” Carpenter-Boggs said, “means farming practices and systems that rely on biological processes that are renewable, non-polluting, and mutually beneficial to both farmers and society.”

Carpenter-Boggs combines traditional farming systems with innovations in soil and compost microbiology to foster vibrant and sustainable agriculture. She works to meet the growing demand for new research and outreach from farmers and consumers to build sustainable agriculture, communities, and ecosystems throughout Washington State.

In collaboration with the City of Tacoma, WSU soil scientist Craig Cogger and colleagues at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center helped develop an effective biosolids-based greenhouse potting medium called Tagro Potting Mix that the city sells at local nurseries. City officials say they like Tagro not only because it reduces waste and recycles nutrients, but also because it has a positive economic impact in the network of nurseries that sell the product.

By Brian Clark, CAHNRS Marketing, News, and Educational Communications

Backyard Composting

The science of taking organic materials that would otherwise be wasted and turning them into nutrient-rich resources is the subject of a free WSU Extension publication, “Backyard Composting,” written by composting experts Craig Cogger and Dan Sullivan.

Download “Backyard Composting”