Changes in bacterial and fungal communities across compost recipes, preparation methods, and composting times

Deborah A. Neher, Thomas R. Weicht, Scott T. Bates, Jonathan W. Leff, Noah Fierer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

207 Scopus citations


Compost production is a critical component of organic waste handling, and compost applications to soil are increasingly important to crop production. However, we know surprisingly little about the microbial communities involved in the composting process and the factors shaping compost microbial dynamics. Here, we used high-throughput sequencing approaches to assess the diversity and composition of both bacterial and fungal communities in compost produced at a commercial-scale. Bacterial and fungal communities responded to both compost recipe and composting method. Specifically, bacterial communities in manure and hay recipes contained greater relative abundances of Firmicutes than hardwood recipes with hay recipes containing relatively more Actinobacteria and Gemmatimonadetes. In contrast, hardwood recipes contained a large relative abundance of Acidobacteria and Chloroflexi. Fungal communities of compost from a mixture of dairy manure and silage-based bedding were distinguished by a greater relative abundance of Pezizomycetes and Microascales. Hay recipes uniquely contained abundant Epicoccum, Thermomyces, Eurotium, Arthrobotrys, and Myriococcum. Hardwood recipes contained relatively abundant Sordariomycetes. Holding recipe constant, there were significantly different bacterial and fungal communities when the composting process was managed by windrow, aerated static pile, or vermicompost. Temporal dynamics of the composting process followed known patterns of degradative succession in herbivore manure. The initial community was dominated by Phycomycetes, followed by Ascomycota and finally Basidiomycota. Zygomycota were associated more with manure-silage and hay than hardwood composts. Most commercial composters focus on the thermophilic phase as an economic means to insure sanitation of compost from pathogens. However, the community succeeding the thermophilic phase begs further investigation to determine how the microbial dynamics observed here can be best managed to generate compost with the desired properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere79512
JournalPloS one
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 21 2013


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