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Maintaining and improving soil organic carbon levels is becoming an increasingly important aspect of modern farming. Compost provides potentially one of the most effective ways of applying organic matter to soils and improving organic carbon levels.
Improving soil organic carbon is directly related to soil quality and performance. Increased quality reflects improved biological function (soil health), fertility and physical attributes that include better drainage, reduced compaction and erosion, and improved moisture-holding capability, at least for lighter soils.
Compost is not the only option available. Others include the use of cover or break crops, reducing the use of cultivations, selecting safe pesticides that have little or no impact on beneficial soil biology and the adoption of practices such as permanent bed systems.
Using compost particularly, in intensive industries such as vegetable production, has demonstrated potential to reduce the need for fertiliser, irrigation and pesticides, and to improve marketable yields. It is also likely to improve produce quality and extend shelf life.
Compost use has a number of other benefits that result from the composting process. They include stabilisation of nutrients that minimises leaching of nitrogen in particular, pasteurisation that avoid risks of spreading pests, diseases and weeds that are associated with raw organic matter. By blending different feedstocks, composting can reduce contaminant levels including heavy metals, and the process also degrades most organic compounds that are of concern.
Number of Pages
Organic matter, Composts, Horticulture, Mulches, Plant nutrition, Composting, Soil fertility, Western Australia
Horticulture | Soil Science
Paulin, B, and O'Malley, P. (2008), Compost production and use in horticulture. Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia, Perth. Bulletin 4746.