Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Use of garden organic compost in vegetable productionunder contrasting soil P status

K. Y. Chan A B E , C. Dorahy A C , T. Wells D , D. Fahey A B , N. Donovan C , F. Saleh C and I. Barchia C

A Centre for Recycled Organics in Agriculture, NSW Department of Primary Industries, PMB 8, NSW 2570, Australia.

B NSW Department of Primary Industries, Locked Bag 4, Richmond, NSW 2753, Australia.

C NSW Department of Primary Industries, PMB 8, Camden, NSW 2570, Australia.

D NSW Department of Primary Industries, Locked Bag 26, Gosford, NSW 2250, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: yin.chan@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 59(4) 374-382 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AR07255
Submitted: 3 July 2007  Accepted: 19 December 2007   Published: 8 April 2008

Abstract

Little research has been carried out on the agronomic value of compost produced from garden organics for vegetable production. A field experiment was established in Camden, near Sydney, Australia, to (i) evaluate the effect of the compost on vegetable production and soil quality relative to conventional practice, (ii) compare vegetable production under high and low soil P status, and (iii) monitor the changes in soil P concentration under two compost treatments relative to conventional farmers’ practice. After three successive crops (broccoli, eggplant and cabbage), results indicate that compost (120 dry t/ha) and half-compost (60 dry t/ha supplemented by inorganic fertilisers) treatments can produce similar yield to the conventional practice of using a mixture of poultry manure and inorganic fertiliser. Furthermore, similar yields were achieved for three different crops grown under high and low P soil conditions, clearly demonstrating that the high extractable soil P concentrations currently found in the vegetable farms of Sydney are not necessary for maintaining productivity. The compost treatments also significantly increased soil organic carbon and soil quality including soil structural stability, exchangeable cations, and soil biological properties. Importantly, the compost treatment was effective in reducing the rate of accumulation of extractable soil P compared with the conventional vegetable farming practice. Our results highlight the potential for using compost produced from source separated garden organics in reversing the trend of soil degradation observed under current vegetable production, without sacrificing yield.

Additional keywords: carbon sequestration, recycled organics, poultry manure, microbial biomass, soil biological activities, phosphorus availability.


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