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Jean Bonhotal

Jean Bonhotal

Senior Extension Associate

817 Bradfield Hall
(607) 255-1187

Waste Management Specialist and Director of the Cornell Waste Management Institute in Soil and Crop Sciences. Jean has spent over 25 years in education of composting food, manure, animal carcasses, and compost quality/use. Jean's research includes the degradation of pharmaceuticals in mortality and manure and characterizing and developing beneficial uses for organic residuals.

Research Focus

Research includes assessment of pathogens in composting systems found in roadkill deer, Johnes bacteria, Crypto sporidium and Giardia. Compost quality and use in turf, vineyards and landscaping, use of dairy manure solids as bedding, degradation of pharmaceuticals in carcasses and manure. Characterizing/developing beneficial uses for organic residuals.

Outreach and Extension Focus

I have worked on composting feedstock from food to manure to animal carcasses. Research and education effort is spent on building compost infrastructure to divert more organic residuals from the waste stream, waste characterization/developing beneficial uses for organic residuals and managing routine and catastrophic livestock mortality. With direction from PWT activities, projects include effectively managing and reducing waste can turn it into a resource while avoiding disposal costs and reducing demand for landfill space. Interest continues in organic residuals management for agricultural uses, compliance with CAFO rules and concerns about nutrient management, and increased interest in food scrap composting shows the demand for research and information on managing organic residuals. Adding value to these residuals is a good option for manure, food and dairy processing residuals, mortality, and food and yard waste. These feedstocks have the potential to be valuable amendments for use in agricultural/horticultural production, energy production and erosion control.

NYS DEC and US EPA have aggressive goals to remove more “waste” from landfills and incinerators and turn that waste into a resource through value added processes. These agencies depend on CWMI to provide technical assistance to facilitate building infrastructure to manage more organics. I worked with farms and municipalities to expand the feedstock they accept, to recycle more nutrients and organic material. There has been a great demand for on-site compost education from homes, businesses and institutions. We worked with over 300 CCE Master Gardeners in eight forums on implementing small to medium-scale composting to encourage organic waste management at the point of generation (e.g., homes, institutions, businesses). With some matching support from Development Authority of the North Country a cluster of schools are starting to compost 80% of their waste stream on-site. This will grow in the North Country and spread from school to school in the state. CWMI’s Compost Facility Map helps facilitate the movement of organic feedstock to compost facilities; 12 new facilities are managing more organics.

With partial support from EPA, CWMI is training college students in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to implement composting in schools where they have connections. Solid waste curriculum, posters and games were developed in English and Spanish ( in a joint effort with Syracuse Environmental Finance Center to guide the students in teaching. The islands are nearly out of landfill space and on a fast track to implement solutions through recycling and composting. 170 Students and educators in 3 events were trained and working in the schools before we left the islands. They keep in touch through a Facebook page to help each other with educational efforts.

CWMI’s “Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities” program is currently collaborating with NYS Department of Health and Green Thumb across New York State on this initiative. The program has assessed levels of toxic metals and other contaminants in urban community gardens and worked with communities to implement effective “best management practices” strategies to reduce exposure to metals in the soil. Many urban garden sites have elevated levels of lead and other contaminants that may pose risks to public health. However, the issue of soil contamination is not unique to urban systems. Given the continued importance of home and community gardening and food security in rural, suburban, and urban systems, additional research is needed to be able to make informed recommendations on effective and sustainable solutions to mitigate contamination in a variety of locations where people will continue to grow food. The availability of fresh local food, access to green space, improved soil quality and many other benefits of gardening and building healthy soils are essential components of vibrant, sustainable communities. Research to date suggests that application of quality compost can reduce the concentration of heavy metals (e.g., lead, arsenic) in contaminated soils, and that compost application is an essential part of a comprehensive site management strategy to reduce contamination.

In a CWMI collaboration with Penn State University, The Natural Rendering program has grown to include the development of a new fact sheet “Horse Mortality: Carcass Disposal Alternatives” and DVD “Natural Rendering for Horses - Composting Horse Mortality”. These resources are used in programming to give horse owners disposal options. Research conclusions are included in the information so that livestock owners have good information on disposal of euthanized animals. This information has been published in horse publications and scientific journals.

Efforts continue to work with community programs to increase their organics recycling. Food waste in different forms has been added into different processes. Ten municipalities around the state are at different stages of adding commercial and residential food waste into existing yard-waste compost operations. We are assisting them in working through the collection and management issues of accepting waste food. A lot of technical assistance is needed for the management of food waste as food has a tendency to become putrid, making the process of handling it more complex than most processing. Through three compost tours in different locations, waste managers have seen a variety of operations to gain information about how they function, and met many compost operators in order to better network. CWMI works with solid waste organizations and their conferences to get more information to waste managers.

As I partner with extension programs to do the outreach, it puts CCE in a visible leadership position in our counties when budgets allocations are tight. I will continue to work with USDA and USEPA to implement sound methods when disposing of flesh waste and work on improving response to mass casualty. I am currently working with NYS DEC, DAM, Farm Bureau, CCE and Pro Dairy in NYS and NESARE, APHIS, EPA, and 10 universities nationally to improve disposal options for mortality and meat waste for routine situations and emergency response. There has been an increase need with the continued decline of the rendering industry.

Teaching Focus

I do not have a mandate to teach but I assist in courses as requested in my area of expertise.

Awards and Honors

  • Rufus Chaney Award (2014) US Composting Council
  • NACAA Poster Award (2013) National Association of County Agricultural Agents
  • MacDonald Award (2011) Dept of Crop and Soil Sciences
  • NACAA Communication Award - Learning Module/Notebook (2009) National Association of County Agricultural Agents
  • NACAA Communication Award - Web Page (2009) National Association of County Agricultural Agents

Selected Publications

Journal Publications

  • Payne, J., Farris, R., Parker, G., Bonhotal, J. F., & Schwarz, M. (2015). Quantification of Sodium Pentobarbital Residues From Equine Mortality Compost Piles. Journal of Animal Science. 93:1824-1829.
  • Schwarz, M., Bonhotal, J. F., Bischoff, K. L., & Ebel, J. (2013). Fate of Barbiturates and Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs During Carcass Composting. Trends in Animal & Veterinary Sciences. 4:1-12.
  • Brinton, W., Bonhotal, J. F., & Fiesinger, T. (2012). Compost Sampling for Nutrient and Quality Parameters: Variability of Sampler, Timing and Pile Depth. Compost Science & Utilization. 20:141-149.
  • Bonhotal, J. F., Schwarz, M., & Stehman, S. M. (2011). How Mycobacterium avium paratuberculois is affected by the composting process. Trends in Animal & Veterinary Sciences. 2:#N/A.
  • Schwarz, M., Bonhotal, J. F., Harrison, E. Z., Brinton, W., & Storms, P. (2010). Effectiveness of Composting Road-Killed Deer in New York State. Compost Science & Utilization. 18:232-241.

Conference Proceedings

  • Schwarz, M., & Bonhotal, J. F. (2015). Effectiveness of Composting as a Means of Emergency Disposal: A Literature Review. Managing Animal Mortalities, Products, By-Products, & Associated Health Risks: Connecting Research, Regulations & Responses. Michigan State University, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 9 pages p.
  • Payne, J., Farris, R., Parker, G., Bonhotal, J. F., & Schwarz, M. (2012). Quantification of Sodium Pentobarbital Residues from Equine Mortality Compost Piles. 4th International Symposium Managing Animal Mortalities, Products, By-products & Associated Health Risk: Connecting Research, Regulations & Response. Michigan State University, Cornell Waste Management Institute, University of Maine Extension, Michigan State University, Cornell Waste Management Institute, University of Maine Extension, Dearborn, MI; Ithaca, NY; Waldoboro, ME 167-174 p.
  • Bonhotal, J. F., & Schwarz, M. (2009). Environmental Effects of Mortality Disposal. 3rd International Symposium: Management of Animal Carcasses, Tissue and Related Byproducts - Connecting Research, Regulations and Response; University of ME, 3rd International Symposium: Management of Animal Carcasses, Tissue and Related Byproducts - Connecting Research, Regulations and Response; University of ME, Waldoboro, ME 1-10 p.


  • Bonhotal, J. F., Schwarz, M., & Rowland, S. (2011). Disposal of Routine and Disaster Related Livestock Mortality. Accredited Vet Newsletter Courtney L. McCracken, DVM (ed.), NYS Department of Ag & Markets, Albany, NY.


  • Bonhotal, J. F., Staehr, A. E., & Schwarz, M. (2009). Are Your Deadstock Piles and Disposal Costs Causing Your Farm Nightmares? p. 21-23 Country Folks Joan Kark-Wren (ed.), Lee Publications, Palatine Bridge, NY.

Presentations and Activities

  • Composting and Waste Management Workshops. Travel to Haiti conduct Composting and Waste Management Workshops . December 2017. FAVACA and SAKALA. Haiti.
  • compost Production, Characteristics of high quality Compost and Compost use in production. Suffolk Co Soil Health Field Day. November 2017. Cornell and Cornell Cooperative Extension, American Farmland Trust. Suffolk County.
  • Compost Production and Use in organic production. Dilmun Compost Workshop. September 2017. Dilmun. Ithaca, NY.
  • Compost tour. USCC Compost course. July 2017. US Composting Council. Brooklyn.
  • DSNY Food Waste Fair. July 2017. DSNY. Brooklyn.
  • Rendering as a Solution to Mass Mortality Management. USDA National Renderers Summit. July 2017. USDA APHIS. Maryland.
  • Implementing Composting in Schools. Newburgh Free Academy. May 2017. NFA and USEPA. Newburgh.
  • Managing Waste. NTRES 2010.. May 2017. cornell class. Ithaca, NY.
  • Compost Processing and Use. Soil Ecology. April 2017.
  • Compost Use in Erosion Control and carbon Footprint of Cornell's Composted Organics. BioCycle. April 2017. BioCycle. Maryland.