Improving soil health through compost

Building knowledge in the local horticulture industry about using compost

Improving soil health through compost

Building knowledge in the local horticulture industry about using compost

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The issue

Many commonplace farming practices used in the horticulture industry have negative impacts on soil health such as loss of soil carbon, soil structure and biological activity. 

In the words of a local grower, “after farming the local soils for 30 years essentially with chemical fertilisers, I have seen a gradual loss of fertility from the soils in my orchard. Slowly but surely it has been harder to manage both tree health and fruit diseases in the stone fruit and avocados.”

Much work has been done outside of the Central Coast region to uncover the benefits of compost and there is a need to share this knowledge with the local farming community and fine-tune it to our local conditions.

Being on the doorstep of Sydney, encouraging use of compost brings the added environmental benefit of promoting recycling of locally-abundant food and green waste products.

The solution

To facilitate the above goals, the NSW Farmers’ Central Coast Sustainable Farming Program established an on-farm compost demonstration on a local commercial property. 

Firstly we engaged NSW DPI soil scientist Justine Cox, to deliver a workshop. Justine has been extensively involved in running compost and biochar trials in NSW. Our aim was to educate local horticulturalists on the use of compost and bring them up-to-date on compost trials in other regions while sharing best practices for setting up an on-farm trial.

The impact

The first workshop at the Mangrove Mountain Memorial Golf Club attracted 28 farmers and industry representatives.  Justine highlighted best practice compost use in horticulture and covered other topics such as:

  • Compost characteristics, grades and quality
  • The effects of compost on soil
  • Application methods and rates
  • Results from compost trials around the country in a range of horticultural crops
  • Setting up & monitoring an on-farm compost trial.

The workshop was the first step in setting up a local compost demonstration, bringing together the farming community, educating on the use of compost and on-farm trials and encouraging input on the themes and enthusiasm for the trial.

Key facts

  • Compost adds organic carbon to soil whilst adding nutrients in a slow-release, plant-friendly form
  • Compost increases water infiltration, reduces water run-off and improves moisture-holding capacity
  • Compost increases soil structural stability and protects soil from erosion

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