Optimum moisture levels for biodegradation of mortality composting envelope materials

H. K. Ahn, T. L. Richard, T. D. Glanville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Moisture affects the physical and biological properties of compost and other solid-state fermentation matrices. Aerobic microbial systems experience different respiration rates (oxygen uptake and CO2 evolution) as a function of moisture content and material type. In this study the microbial respiration rates of 12 mortality composting envelope materials were measured by a pressure sensor method at six different moisture levels. A wide range of respiration (1.6-94.2 mg O2/g VS-day) rates were observed for different materials, with alfalfa hay, silage, oat straw, and turkey litter having the highest values. These four envelope materials may be particularly suitable for improving internal temperature and pathogen destruction rates for disease-related mortality composting. Optimum moisture content was determined based on measurements across a range that spans the maximum respiration rate. The optimum moisture content of each material was observed near water holding capacity, which ranged from near 60% to over 80% on a wet basis for all materials except a highly stabilized soil compost blend (optimum around 25% w.b.). The implications of the results for moisture management and process control strategies during mortality composting are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1411-1416
Number of pages6
JournalWaste Management
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Waste Management and Disposal


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