Composting Lake Weeds

With grant funding from the Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture, the Berkshire Conservation District is conducting a study into the agricultural value of composted lake weeds. Designed to establish a solid information base to encourage and guide future on-farrn composting of harvested nuisance weeds, the study will provide an inventory of statewide practices and opportunities and an analysis of composting methods and recommendations to use composted weeds as an amendment to improve soil tilth and fertility.
This study examines the feasibility of on-farm composting as a cost-effective means of disposal which recovers the resource value of the harvested plants while enhancing the economic viability of agricultural operations. While the District acknowledges that the choice to mechanically harvest weeds in lakes across the Commonwealth is a complicated issue, it does, as a conservation group, support treating the weeds as a resource rather than as a waste product in those situations where harvesting is being practiced.
The demonstration project involves composting approximately 800 tons of lake weeds harvested from two Berkshire County lakes at two upland farms. At one farm the raw weeds were applied directly to hayland in the Summer of 1996 where they dried in place and were later incorporated into the sod. This year corn is being planted in these haylands, utilizing the weeds as a nutrient source. With help from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, soil analysis to examine N-P-K and organic matter content was performed prior to the application of the weeds and at the end of last season to determine the nutrient benefit of the composted weeds.
At the second farm, conventional composting principles are being used and various bulking agents are being mixed with the weeds in different ratios to determine a preferred formula. The final composted product will be analyzed for N-P-K and organic matter content and then applied to the fields, which will also have a soil test analysis performed.

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