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Potential of different composts to improve soil fertility

Fuchs, J. G.; Baier, U.; Berner, A.; Mayer, J.; Tamm, L. and Schleiss, K. (2006) Potential of different composts to improve soil fertility. In: Kraft, E.; Bidlingmaier, W.; de Bertoldi, M.; Diaz, L.F. and Barth, J. (Eds.) Proceedings of the International Conference ORBIT 2006 "Biological Waste Management: From Local to Global", Part 2 Composting – Quality, Application and Benefit, Life Cycle Analysis, Sludge and Soil. ORBIT e.V. D-Weimar, pp. 529-538.

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Summary

Composts can influence soil fertility and plant health. These influences can be positive or negative, depending of the quality of the composts. Some practitioners already make use of the positive effects on plant health. For example, they use composts to protect their plants against soil borne diseases in substrate, or to detoxify and reactivate soil after steaming. In order to estimate the potential of Swiss composts to influence
soil fertility and plant health positively, we analyzed one hundred composts representative of the different composting systems and qualities available on the market.
The organic substance and the nutrient content of the composts varied greatly between the composts; the materials of origin were the major factor influencing these values. The respiration rate and enzyme activities also varied greatly, particularly in the youngest composts. These differences become smaller when the composts become more mature. Maturity, the degradation stage of the organic matter, depended not only on the age of the compost, but also on the management of the process. The N-mineralization potential from compost added to soil showed that a high proportion of young composts immobilized the nitrogen in the soil. This problem was hardly correlated with the materials of origin, but with the management of the first stage of the composting
process. Especially composts which had become too dry in this period lost their ammonia-nitrogen, and hence immobilized nitrogen in the soil. Also composts with a low NO3/NH4 ratio, as a rough indicator for an immature compost, immobilized nitrogen in the soil. By contrast, the phytotoxicity of the composts varied very much also in matured composts, showing that the storage of the compost plays a decisive role. While the
majority of compost protected cucumber plants against Pythium ultimum, only a few composts suppressed Rhizoctonia solani in basil. With respect to disease suppression, the management of the maturation process seems to play a major role.
In conclusion, big differences in compost quality and of their impact on soil fertility and on plant health were observed. The management of the composting process seems to influence the quality of the composts to a higher extent than the materials of origin or the composting system. More attention should be paid to biological quality of composts, in order to produce composts with more beneficial effects on crops.


EPrint Type:Book chapter
Keywords:Pflanzenschutz, Pflanzenkrankheiten, Interaktion Boden-Pflanzenkrankheiten,
Subjects: Soil > Soil quality
Crop husbandry > Composting and manuring
Research affiliation: Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Plant Protection and Biodiversity
Related Links:http://www.fibl.org/forschung/pflanzenschutz-krankheiten/index.php, http://www.orbit2006.de
Deposited By: Fuchs, Dr. Jacques G.
ID Code:9218
Deposited On:12 Sep 2006
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:34
Document Language:English
Status:Published
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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