Healthier Soil May Mean Healthier Yield – Compost Study Underway to Increase Potato Productivity in New Brunswick

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has joined forces with McCain Foods Canada and the province’s potato growers in a major project to improve potato yields in New Brunswick by improving soil health.

Potato yields in New Brunswick are lagging behind other North American potato production regions. The culprit may be declining soil health.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researcher Bernie Zebarth believes potato yields could be boosted by applying compost.

Compost products vary widely depending on their feedstocks (animal manures, wood waste or bedding materials) and the composting process, and how that affects potato growth is not known. The new research project has two components. The first includes large-scale application of compost on grower fields. The effects of this compost on potato yield and soil health are being evaluated over several years.

The second component is evaluating a series of compost products in experimental plots at the AAFC Potato Research Centre in Fredericton.

"With these experiments, we are looking at how compost application affects potato productivity and soil quality as a way of overcoming limitations to yield due to degraded soils. By checking diverse compost products and resulting potato yields, we will be able to tell which compost products are best suited for overcoming limitations to potato productivity."

- Bernie Zebarth, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Within three years, scientists expect to have results on:

  • what kind of compost is best suited for use in potato production;
  • how this compost can affect potato yield and processing quality;
  • how this compost can improve soil health and suppress soil-borne diseases;
  • how this compost affects nutrient availability;
  • the economic feasibility of using compost in processing potato production.

The results of this research will have applicability across Atlantic Canada, primarily potato production areas in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Compost could be used in other high-value crops as well throughout the region.

AAFC is joining other organizations worldwide to celebrate the International Year of Soils 2015 and raise public awareness about the fundamental roles of soils in our daily lives. We are doing our part by leading research and development activities in agri-innovations to enhance both the economic and environmental sustainability of Canadian agriculture.

Key Highlights

  • Compost returns stable organic matter to the soil and helps retain nutrients, improves water holding capacity, improves soil structure and reduces soil compaction caused by farm equipment.
  • AAFC and industry are collaborating in research to increase potato productivity across Atlantic Canada by improving soil health through compost application.
  • Because of the inherent variability of compost products, researchers aim to identify which kinds provide the most beneficial effects on processing potato production.

Photo Gallery

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Compost being applied to field
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Field with compost application
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Plots at Potato Research Centre in Fredericton receiving compost

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