Evaluation of compost for use as a soil amendment in corn and soybean production

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Courtesy of BioCycle Magazine

The purpose of this research project was to 1) evaluate rate of compost application and 2) to compare compost with uncomposted raw material and inorganic fertilizer N application upon maize and soybean growth and productivity, and upon soil characteristics. During the first three years of the study, the source of uncomposted material and compost was food waste and ground newsprint. During years 4 to 9 of the study, the source of uncomposted material and compost was dairy cow manure and wood chips. Application rates in field site 1 were 0, 11.2, 22.4, 33.6 and 44.8 Mg ha-1 compost, 44.8 Mg ha-1 uncomposted material and 140 kg ha-1 fertilizer N (as urea). Application rates in field site 2 were 0, 22.4, 44.8, 67.2 and 134.4 Mg ha-1 compost, 134.4 Mg ha-1 uncomposted manure and 180 kg ha-1 fertilizer N (dry matter basis). The high rates of compost application significantly raised organic matter levels, and available P and K compared to inorganic fertilizer N. Uncomposted manure and increasing compost application rates significantly increased grain yield, number of kernels per plant and plant weight. Composting significantly reduced pathogen indicator bacteria concentrations. The data of this study suggest that on these high organic matter soils 22.4 Mg ha-1 to 44.8 Mg ha-1 are optimal compost application rates.

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