How Compost Improves Soil Health For Farms
One of the factors that link all agriculture together is soil. The quality of the soil is essential no matter what you farm. Soil quality and soil health are the most commonly used words. How Compost Improves Soil Health For Farms.
While many people use the terms interchangeably, there is a distinction to be made.
Making compost is a little trickier than it appears, as everyone has a somewhat different recipe or process.
However, if you get it correctly, you’ll have a highly beneficial soil supplement that can quickly boost soil health.
Compost improves the biological, chemical, and physical aspects of soil, providing numerous benefits as a soil amendment and a source of organic matter:
- Increases microbial activity
- Enhances plant disease suppression
- Increases soil fertility
- Increases cation exchange capacity
- Improves soil structure in clayey soils
- Improves water retention in sandy soils
- Reduces bioavailability of heavy metals
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What is Soil Health?
Soil health describes the biological integrity of the soil community-the balance among organisms within the soil and between soil organisms and their environment.”
Soil quality is a term that we use when talking about soil’s physical attributes. Physical attributes can be as basic as color.
It can also be used to describe more complex soil characteristics such as soil organic matter, nutrient amounts, soil structure, etc. These attributes can all be influenced by management practices and have the capability to enhance or diminish soil health.
Organic matter additions improve soil health and result in higher biomass production compared to low fertile sandy soils.
Ouédraogo and Bonanomi recommend the use of compost for conventional and biological agriculture systems to improve soil fertility and crop yield.
How Does compost Improve Soil Health?
1. Compost Benefits Using compost as mulch, in the soil, or as potting media is beneficial in many ways. Compost contains a full spectrum of essential plant nutrients. You can test the nutrient levels in your compost and soil to find out what other supplements it may need for specific plants.
- Compost contains macro and micronutrients often absent in synthetic fertilizers.
- Compost releases nutrients slowly—over months or years, unlike synthetic fertilizers
- Compost enriched soil retains fertilizers better. Less fertilizer runs off to pollute waterways.
- Compost buffers the soil, neutralizing both acid & alkaline soils, bringing pH levels to the optimum range for nutrient availability to plants.
2. Compost helps bind clusters of soil particles, called aggregates, which provide good soil structure. Such soil is full of tiny air channels & pores that hold air, moisture, and nutrients.
- Compost helps sandy soil retain water and nutrients.
- Compost loosens tightly bound particles in clay or silt soil so roots can spread, water drain & air penetrate.
- Compost alters soil structure, making it less likely to erode, and prevents soil from spattering on plants—spreading disease.
- Compost can hold nutrients tight enough to prevent them from washing out, but loosely enough so plants can take them up as needed.
- Compost makes any soil easier to work.
3. Compost brings and feeds diverse life in the soil. These bacteria, fungi, insects, worms, and more support healthy plant growth.
- Compost bacteria break down organics into plant-available nutrients. Some bacteria convert nitrogen from the air into a plant-available nutrient.
- Compost-enriched soil has lots of beneficial insects, worms, and other organisms that burrow through the soil keeping it well aerated.
- Compost may suppress diseases and harmful pests that could overrun poor lifeless soil.
4. Healthy soil is an important factor in protecting our waters. Compost increases soil’s ability to retain water & decreases runoff. Runoff pollutes water by carrying soil, fertilizers, and pesticides to nearby streams.
- Compost encourages healthy root systems, which decrease runoff
- Compost can reduce or eliminate the use of synthetic fertilizers
- Compost can reduce chemical pesticides since it contains beneficial microorganisms that may protect plants from diseases and pests.
- Only a 5% increase in organic material quadruples soil water holding capacity.
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How is Compost Useful for Plants?
Compost improves soil structure, introduces helpful bacteria, and supplies a wide spectrum of nutrients for plants.
After several years of application, compost has the greatest impact on soil structure (improved aggregation, pore spacing, and water storage) and crop output.
Composts typically provide about 2% nitrogen, 0.5–1% phosphorus, and 2% potassium.
To hasten decomposition, nitrogen fertilizers and manure can be used.
How Compost Improves Soil Health For Farms