Composting isn’t just popular with home gardeners. Since the ’70s, its application has been on the rise throughout the US among professional farmers. Despite them having the same goals, there are many differences between home and commercial composting.
Importance of Volume
It should be no surprise to anyone that farms that regularly take advantage of the benefits of compost generally need a larger supply than any home gardener. Even the largest hobby plot is no match for an international producer of food and feed crops. Commercial farms require entire tracks of in-progress compost throughout the year.
Often, farmers arrange them in long, wall-like strips that run along the length of fields. Known as windrows, farmers work them using large farm machinery and, ideally, can generate enough fertilizer through this method to offset (if not remove) the need for chemical feed and fertilizer.
Preciseness of Content and Quality
The biggest difference between home and commercial composting is, by far, the necessity for accurate and systematic routine testing. Most hobbyists are happy knowing that their compost pile is working. If it’s turning out regular fresh soil, the exact nutrients don’t matter as much. In commercial farming, the number of crops occurring in one plot of land pushes the soil to its limits in a way that even a highly productive hobbyist can’t touch.
As such, farmers need to know the health of the soil and, in turn, effectively mend it. Testing compost for quality and nutrient volume is essential. What’s more, commercial farmers make much more strategic use of targeted microorganisms, such as bacterial colonies introduced via soil inoculants.
Commercial-Grade Specialty Equipment
As mentioned, composting on a large scale calls for more than a hand cultivator and a pitchfork. Typically, farmers use a compost turner appropriate for the size of their operation—a size that is much too large for any home growing. Turners are relatively small so that a farmer can draw them using a standard farm tractor; otherwise, they are a full-sized independent rig that drives like a typical farm vehicle.
Commercial composting also uses an array of large and complex machines, depending on the goals and needs of each farm. Some use huge vat turners, while others like to brew large quantities of compost tea. Regardless, all these tools are much too advanced and specific for a casual exploration into composting.