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Food-Based Composts Provide More Soil Fertility Benefits Than Cow Manure-Based Composts in Sandy Soils

  • kelley, alicia
  • wilkie, ann c.
  • maltais-landry, gabriel
Publication Date
Mar 09, 2020
DOI: 10.3390/agriculture10030069
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Nutrient concentration and availability vary substantially among composts depending on the materials used and the production process. Composts produced from agricultural operations typically utilize animal wastes such as manures, whereas composts produced in urban areas mainly incorporate food and yard waste. Our objective was to assess how different composts affect nutrient availability and cycling, mostly carbon (C) and nitrogen (N). In a laboratory incubation, we compared three composts derived from cow manure (composted dairy manure solids, vermicompost made from those manure solids, and Black KowTM) and two composts derived from food waste (composted food waste from the UF-IFAS Compost Cooperative and EcoscrapsTM). We used two sandy soils from Gainesville, FL: one from an area under perennial grasses and a second heavily-tilled soil lower in organic matter. Incubations were conducted for eight weeks at 24 and 30 &deg / C, i.e., the annual and July mean soil temperature for the area. The composted and vermicomposted cow manure solids had the greatest CO2 emissions relative to the unamended soils. Soil nitrate was highest with composted food waste, whereas all three cow manure-derived composts resulted in lower soil nitrate compared to the unamended soils. This suggests that N was immobilized with cow manure-derived composts, consistent with the high CO2 emissions measured with these amendments. We found similar results for both soils. Our results indicate a greater potential for food-waste compost as a nutrient source than compost derived primarily from cow manure solids, which could be more beneficial to building soil C.

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