Compost in agriculture - the practical and financial benefits
There are various benefits to using quality compost in agriculture. A five-year study, funded by Grantscape through the Landfill Communities Scheme, found many significant benefits from successive annual applications of quality PAS100 compost derived from green waste.
What is compost?
Why is compost good for farmers and growers?
- Increases organic matter in the soil which studies show improves maximum yield potential
- Offers slow release of major crop nutrients including phosphate, potash, magnesium and sulphur
- Improves soil structure for better workability and better crop establishment
- Increases water infiltration and retention
- The organic action of compost can help to inhibit pests and diseases within the soil
- Complements and can enhance the performance of inorganic fertilizers, reducing the overall quantity needed - better for your pocket and the environment.
- Easy and safe to apply as a product.
- A useful input of sulpher to improve cereal and OSR grain quality characteristics.
- The above neutral pH of the compost means it will buffer the acidifying effects of high nitrogen inputs, helping to keep soils at optimal pH.
The financial benefits of using compost in agriculture
- Higher yields - compost improves soil structure and fertility and can increase a crop’s yield potential.
- Fertilizer substitution – compost contains crop-available nutrients which will help save costs. Useful P and K content can improve your soil indices and remove the need for additional fertilizers.
- Better water management – compost can prevent heavy soils becoming water logged by increasing water infiltration. It will also help light soils hold on to water, making it available for crop growth during dry periods.
- Fuel savings and traffic tolerance - compost improves soil structure, making it easier to work whilst using less fuel. Improving soil structure will make it more resistant to compaction from traffic and will extend the conditions in which it can be worked.
- Full analysis – Farmers or Landscapers can know exactly what they are getting in there compost to enable them to get the correct spread rates on there fields for maximum benefit.
- The main factor influencing cost is the distance from compost supplier to the farmer’s field.
- The financial gains are greatest where the distance is short and compost can be collected using the farmers own spreader or trailer, thereby reducing double-handling.
- We found that the total cost, including purchase price, haulage and spreading can vary significantly between suppliers.
- The amount charged for different elements of the service will also vary. Of the total cost, the purchase price made up 20-33%, haulage between 25-70% and spreading 20-45% - further highlighting the benefits of farming near a compost producer.
As fertilizer prices rise, the benefits of using compost become even clearer.