Producing organic fertilizer by aerobic composting is an effective way to solve the livestock manure pollution problem and to achieve economic utilization of the valuable resource. To control the composting process effectively and ensure the quality of such organic fertilizers, it is necessary to quantify the key parameters and provide timely feedback of their changes during the composting process. In the industrial field, the traditional laboratory analysis is being transferred into process analysis. This study explored the application of real-time and field monitoring of the key parameters in the industrial trough composting process using handheld near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy and evaluated its ability to accurately predict these changes. The results showed that the handheld NIR could accurately detect moisture content (MC), total nitrogen (TN), total carbon (TC), the carbon/nitrogen (C/N) ratio, organic matter (OM) and electrical conductivity (EC) during the trough composting process, with excellent predictions for MC, good predictions for TN and OM, approximate predictions for TC, C/N ratio and EC. Changes in NIR-predicted values and measured values were consistent as the composting process progressed. The handheld NIR sensor shows good potential for real-time and field monitoring of the composting process and organic fertilizer quality assurance.
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