Compost and cultivation costs

  • Recycling municipal and industrial by composting reduces the energy costs of cultivations on farms.
  • Adding compost to farm soils absorbs and holds water while still allowing the soil to breathe.
  • As soil organic matter goes up, so do farm profits.
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Nearly everything we have came from the soil. Nearly everything will go back to it.

High organic soils absorb and hold more water, better.  That “better” means that while the soil holds more water, it also breaths better at the same time, thus having both water and Oxygen giving a positive effect of root growth.  It also means that trafficability improves; so the soil can be wetter and distort and compact less.  There is another effect, maybe hundreds of miles away; holding water in the uplands reduces the risk of flash flooding lower down the waterways including the Somerset Levels.

There is another effect of organics matter affecting cultivation energy. One of the Land Network farms (see www.landnetwork.co.uk) has been applying composts made from imported local municipal and industrial wastes for 8 or 9 years on some fields.  On that land, they are getting one more furrow on the plough.  That equates to 20% less energy used. Not only that, the heavy soil farm does not now need to use a power harrow to produce a seedbed; total energy saving is over 50 %.

Soil scientists know from soil mechanics that organic matter reduces shear strength.  That affects “primary” cultivation such as ploughing, and it also affects secondary cultivation such as seedbed work.  Soils work more easily with less energy use when organic matter is raised. Cultivations are faster and timeliness improves.  Timeliness affects management ease and, ultimately, crop yield.

Research at the Soil Research Centre at the University of Reading argues that there is a correlation between organic matter and financial returns; as soil organic matter goes up, so do profits.

If you are a farmer, try my book “How to make on farm composting work”, published by MX Publishing, 2009.

If you are a gardener try “how garden recycling works”, same author and same publisher.

Next week’s Blog – Organic fertilisers and crop yields.

 Bill Butterworth  4th November 2015