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Title: UBC farm
Author: Fragoso, Xanath; Goobie, Alanna; Jeyagapal, Murrali Raj; Johnson, Timothy; McClure, Ken; Mogan, Vinod; Nguyen, Callias
Issue Date: 2010
Publicly Available in cIRcle 2012-08-23
Series/Report no. University of British Columbia, UBC Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) Student Reports
Abstract: This project is a UBC SEEDS project focusing on the UBC farm, with the primary objectives concerning the compost pile. The client, Andrew Rushmere at the UBC Farm, needs to determine how the compost piles negatively affect the environment with respect to greenhouse gases—particularly methane. If it is determined that there is a significant effect to the environment from the compost then the next step is to research and recommend practical solutions to the farm. An alternative objective of the project is to research and recommend solutions to the farm with respect to the quality of the compost; the feed materials of the compost are poor in nitrates which are crucial in plant development. It is decided that gas chromatography (GC) is the most effective and available scientific method to quantify the greenhouse gas emissions. The first step for the analysis is to collect samples from the compost. The first attempt to collect and test samples failed, but the methods of collecting were refined so that more confidence could be held in the obtained results. As methane production would likely occur more in the center of the compost pile (due to anaerobic conditions), a long 1.5” PVC pipe was used to extract deeper samples. This time, samples were stored in better sealing bags and one sealed glass container. While the second attempt at the GC did not work with the better sealing bags, the glass container did yield results with methane. However, these results are extremely difficult to quantify as the method to extract the gas from the container involved exposure to the environment. The most feasible recommendation that can be made to the farm is flipping the compost more often to increase aeration for a more aerobic environment. Another solution researched is to consider sending the compost to the UBC composting facility, as they have a fully aerated process which is unsuitable for methane production. To improve the compost quality, legumes can be planted on the compost and mulched in because legumes are inexpensive and produce nitrogen compounds. An alternative to legumes is alfalfa meal, which can be purchased in stores. To reduce leaching of nutrients caused by rainwater washing, the compost can be covered with a tarp. This solution will also help insulate the compost during the winter months from convective and radiative heat losses, which may help in the winter composting rate. Future students continuing this project will need to use better sealing containers and get more sample readings to better quantify the results. The farm staff can be contacted to acquire a temperature profile of the compost to better determine the conditions needed to incubate the samples for a gas analysis. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”
Affiliation: Sustainability Office
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/43038
Peer Review Status: Unreviewed
Scholarly Level: Undergraduate

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