The use of elemental sulphur as organic alternative to control pH during composting of olive mill wastes.Chemosphere. 2004 Dec; 57(9):1099-105.C
High values of pH may represent a limitation for the agricultural use of the composts, not only when used as soil-less substrate but also as soil amendment in high pH soils. The addition of elemental S during the maturation phase of the composting process was evaluated as suitable method to reduce pH of the composts under the organic agriculture regulations. A compost prepared with two phase olive mill waste (OMW) and sheep litter (SL) was used to study the effect of elemental sulphur addition on the pH of the composting mixture. Initially, different bench scale experiments were designed in order to study the influence of moisture, sulphur concentration, and incubation temperature on the sulphur oxidation rate and thus on the pH of the compost. A concentration of 0.5% in sulphur (dry weight basis) and moisture of 40% were proposed as the optimum conditions to decrease the compost pH by 1.1 units without increasing in EC to levels that may suppose a limitation for its agricultural use. Finally, these optimum experimental conditions found at bench scale were tested at full scale in a commercial composting plant treating the same organic materials by windrowing. The pH values of the composting mixture were reduced by one unit after 2 weeks following the addition of elemental S causing no negative effects on the final compost quality.