Productive soils typically contain between 2 to 6% organic matter. Soils that are naturally poor or that have been depleted by cropping can benefit greatly from the addition of compost. In areas where topsoil is not readily available or is expensive, the use of compost as a soil amendment can be very cost effective. Even in areas which have a good quality topsoil, the addition of compost can significantly reduce water usage and provide optimal growing conditions for plants.
Some of the advantages provided by compost include:
- increased soil water holding capacity
- improved soil structure
- slow release form of nutrients
- increased nutrient exchange capacity
- enhanced soil microbial development and nutrient cycling
- improved pathogen and disease resistance
Compost can be applied with standard agricultural implements at relatively low annual application rates (2 to 5 tons/acre) for agricultural use (depending on specific crop). It can augment conventional fertilizers, or it can be applied at higher rates (20 to 60 tons/acre, depending on the soil/material and species grown) to improve physical and chemical characteristics and “rebuild” marginal soils.