Temporal effects of food waste compost on soil physical quality and productivity.

Reynolds, W.D., Drury, C.F., Tan, C.S., and Yang, X.M. (2015). "Temporal effects of food waste compost on soil physical quality and productivity.", Canadian Journal of Soil Science, 95(3), pp. 251-268. doi : 10.4141/CJSS-2014-114  Access to full text

Abstract

The benefits of compost additions on soil organic carbon content and crop productivity are extant in the literature, but detailed studies of compost effects on soil physical quality (SPQ) are limited. The objective of this study was therefore to describe how one-time additions of compost impact the immediate, mid-term and long-term SPQ and crop yields of an agricultural soil. Food waste compost (FWC) was incorporated once into the top 10 cm of a humid-temperate Brookston clay loam soil at rates of 0 (Control), 75 dry t ha−1 (FWC-75), 150 dry t ha−1 (FWC–150) and 300 dry t ha−1 (FWC-300); measurements of SPQ parameters and corn yield were then made annually over the next 11 yr. The SPQ parameters included bulk density (BD), organic carbon content (OC), air capacity (AC), plant-available water capacity (PAWC), relative field capacity (RFC), and saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ks ), which were obtained from intact (undisturbed) soil core samples. Prior to compost addition, BD, OC, AC, PAWC, RFC and Ks were substantially non-optimal, and BD had increased relative to virgin soil by 46%, while OC, AC and PAWC had decreased relative to virgin soil by 60, 56 and 43%, respectively. Improvements in SPQ 1 yr after compost addition were negligible or small for FWC-75 and FWC-150, but FWC-300 generated optimal values for BD, OC, AC, PAWC and RFC. The SPQ parameters degraded with time, but 11 yr after compost addition, OC and AC under FWC-300 were still within their optimal ranges, as well as significantly (P<0.05) greater than the Control values by 65 and 26%, respectively. Soil cracks and biopores apparently induced substantial annual variation in Ks , but average Ks nevertheless increased with increasing compost addition rate. Corn grain yield varied substantially among years, which was likely due to weather and compost effects; however, 11-yr cumulative yields from the compost treatments were greater than the Control by 2200–6500 kg ha−1 .

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