Posted on 08/21/2012, 8:03 am, by Farmscape.Ca

A researcher with the University of Manitoba says, in addition to providing crop nutrients composted livestock manure offers a wide range of additional benefits for the soil.

As part of research being conducted by the University of Manitoba, scientists have been separating the solids from liquid hog manure, adding a carbon source such as straw or sawdust and composting the materials.

Dr. Mario Tenuta, Canada Research Chair in Applied Soil Ecology with the University of Manitoba, explains compost helps improve the soil in ways that go far beyond providing crop nutrients.

It does provide nutrients particularly phosphorus, a phenomenal source of phosphorus.

Nitrogen, it’s a very very slow release source of nitrogen analogous to soil organic matter.

It’s a slow release, a small fraction on an annual basis is released so you can’t bank on it for your nitrogen needs for your crop solely but for phosphorus it’s a wonderful available source.

Then there are other things that it’s doing.

It’s improving your water holding capacity because it behaves like a sponge.

It’s organic matter, it’s like increasing your soil organic matter so all those wonderful things we know soil organic matter does to improve crop production, we think compost does that.

It’s also providing a source, a home for soil organisms.

It increases biodiversity and one thing we’ve seen, for example in potatoes in Manitoba, we’ve seen reduction and disease suppression on potatoes, particularly early dying of potatoes and we’re following up with projects on that trying to figure out what’s that mechanism.

Is it nutrients, is it some microorganisms in that compost that are providing biocontrol for example, is there some others, is it water holding capacity, is it stimulating root performance and the plant is becoming more resistant to pathogen attack?

We don’t know these things.

Dr. Tenuta says, in a nutshell, compost does help with nutrient availability but it also does all of those wonderful things that increasing soil organic matter does for crop performance.