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May 9, 2012
By Natalie Savidge
The season of spring has arrived, and just as students, staff and faculty returned reinvigorated from their spring breaks a few weeks ago, the University of Nevada, Reno's historic Quadrangle started going through a renewal period of its own.
The University Building and Grounds Department through the campus' Facilities, Planning and Analysis Division has teamed up with Full Circle Compost from Carson Valley to provide an organic solution to reseeding and fertilizing the Quad this year. With a sustainable agriculture movement sweeping the Reno area, the University is taking steps to make its facilities and grounds more environmentally friendly. Cody Witt, a December graduate from the University's MBA program, is the project manager of Full Circle Compost's WEcycle Program and has high hopes for the green future for the University.
"The University can be the greenest campus in Nevada," Witt said. "The Quad revitalization project is one of many plans we have to 'greenify' the campus."
The Quad has been in need of a sustainable makeover to create a longer-lasting and productive turf area for University students and faculty to enjoy. Full Circle Compost surveyed the Quad and took detailed soil analysis on March 1 to find out exactly what nutrients were lacking in the soil and also what nutrients were oversaturated from years of chemical fertilizer use. This information was used to make a custom soil blend specific to fix the problems on the Quad.
"The key to a great-looking Quad all starts with soil," Witt said. "By creating the healthiest soil possible for the Quad and continuously providing its turf with the necessary nutrients it needs, we will be able to create an overall better space for everyone to enjoy."
The soil amendment or treatment made by Full Circle used local recycled ingredients that have undergone a 10-week aerobic composting process to break down all the materials into a product called humus. "Real deal" humified compost is recycled organic materials that have been through the stomach of a microbe and result in humus. This humus is mixed with specialty minerals and nutrients to give the Quad exactly what it has been craving. First, the Quad was aerated to give the soil a breath of fresh air. Then, custom seed was applied. The custom soil amendment was spread on top of the seed on March 26 to give it a nice blanket of nutrients to bring the Quad back to life. Rather than applying chemical fertilizers after the reseeding, Witt explained, the ground crew is using a liquid biological agent or organic fertilizer that is giving the seeds and the soil extra boosts of nutrition to create the best growing environment for the new seed and the old turf. The organic agent helps to accelerate certain microbial processes in the soil which augment the extent of availability of nutrients in a form easily assimilated by plants. A natural lawn does a better job defending itself from pests and disease and does not require nearly as much water.
The next step to the "full-circle process," would be having all the landscaping materials sent to Full Circle Compost to be recycled into more soil and composting products. These materials could then be used on campus to complete the recycling loop: the University recycles, the materials are made into specifically designed soil amendments, and the material is used back on the grounds to create a sustainable loop to push the campus to new green heights.
"We hope to eventually save the University money through this green, innovative composting process," Witt said. "The immediate environmental benefits are priceless and can be seen through the health and vitality of the Quad just two weeks after application of the soil amendment. The WEcycle ideology is to help organizations cut costs while effectively increasing consumer awareness about environmental sustainability, social responsibility and composting."
Witt has years of experience in soil sustainability and the creation of organic soil environments to be used as chemical substitutes. He has helped create "full circle" environmental networks where all partners help to create a fully organic community of suppliers and producers to create sustainable changes in communities through recycling, producing new soils, organic produce production and re-selling.
"My business degree is directly tied into my ambition of becoming the leading natural resource manager for business throughout the northern Nevada area," Witt, who is an administrative faculty member working in the University's College of Business, said. "I would like to see composting and humus-based soil fertility be the new standard for landscape and agricultural revitalization. If we can get great results on the Quad, imagine the results in your backyard garden or from your local food grower using humus-based soil fertility. We are amidst a changing paradigm and I am trying my hardest to push these sustainable ideas forward in Nevada."