A statistical analysis to assess the maturity and stability of six composts.Waste Manag 2009; 29(5):1504-13WM
Despite the long-time application of organic waste derived composts to crops, there is still no universally accepted index to assess compost maturity and stability. The research presented in this article investigated the suitability of seven types of seeds for use in germination bioassays to assess the maturity and phytotoxicity of six composts. The composts used in the study were derived from cow manure, sea weeds, olive pulp, poultry manure and municipal solid waste. The seeds used in the germination bioassays were radish, pepper, spinach, tomato, cress, cucumber and lettuce. Data were analyzed with an analysis of variance at two levels and with pair-wise comparisons. The analysis revealed that composts rendered as phytotoxic to one type of seed could enhance the growth of another type of seed. Therefore, germination indices, which ranged from 0% to 262%, were highly dependent on the type of seed used in the germination bioassay. The poultry manure compost was highly phytotoxic to all seeds. At the 99% confidence level, the type of seed and the interaction between the seeds and the composts were found to significantly affect germination. In addition, the stability of composts was assessed by their microbial respiration, which ranged from approximately 4 to 16g O(2)/kg organic matter and from 2.6 to approximately 11g CO(2)-C/kg C, after seven days. Initial average oxygen uptake rates were all less than approximately 0.35g O(2)/kg organic matter/h for all six composts. A high statistically significant correlation coefficient was calculated between the cumulative carbon dioxide production, over a 7-day period, and the radish seed germination index. It appears that a germination bioassay with radish can be a valid test to assess both compost stability and compost phytotoxicity.