Composting is a great way to reduce household and yard organic waste and create a good soil amendment for your garden. While the materials in a well constructed compost pile will break down quickly and effectively with few problems, sometimes active compost piles can smell of ammonia, depending on the type of manures and materials used. Researchers in France sought out ways to reduce the ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions from compost piles, while still making them effective.
Researchers experimented with compost piles made from cattle manure and hay and turkey manure and straw. They found that most of the emissions, and smell, were emitted when the piles were constructed and, again, when they were turned. Their remedy was to add water so the dry matter content went from 55% of the pile to only 33%. Initially the temperature of the pile went down, but it recovered in a few days and the pile continued to cook. However, the ammonia, nitrous oxide, and smell were significantly reduced.
For more information on this compost research, go to: Science Direct.