In the search for solutions to create a truly sustainable farming system, or even a regenerative agriculture system, compost is emerging as an increasingly popular tool.
But what exactly is compost?
Simply put, compost is what you get when organic material (for example: food scraps, leaves or animal products) decomposes properly. It is the result of the natural rotting process that occurs with all organic material and becomes a nutrient rich, dirt-like material that can be used to enrich soil and nourish plant growth.
While this process takes time in nature, commercial compost operations speed up the process to around 6-8 weeks by creating ideal conditions. Compost can be spread on paddocks as is, or it can be processed further to create a biologically active liquid compost extract.
What are the benefits?
Compost improves soil health because it feeds soil organisms; helps to improve the soil structure and adds carbon to the soil which in turn helps to increase the water holding capacity of the soil. These benefits support the growth of healthier, more resilient plants and can reduce our reliance on synthetic fertilisers.
Composting can also help to close the loop on nutrient cycling. Currently the majority of our food is produced in the regions but consumed in the cities. Composting provides a pathway to return the organic waste produced in the cities back to farmland and back to the soil.
When it comes to compost products, you get what you pay for so the cheapest options may not be the best. Transport can also influence decisions. Finding a trusted local supplier for your composting needs is recommended.
For some, a vermiculture (worm farming) setup on your own property could be a viable option and there are farmers in the Northern Agriculture Region doing exactly that.
Last year, NACC NRM supported three farmers in the NAR to run a series of small trials looking at compost and vermi-compost extract to reduce their reliance on traditional fertiliser treatments.
Results showed a promising reaction to the initial treatments although we won’t know the full picture until the research has been completed and the report published. The report will be available to all NACC members and land managers in the NAR once complete.
For more information, you may find the following links useful:
● https://www.cwise.com.au/images/pdf/John_Barton_Literature_Review.pdf – Comprehensive review of using compost in broad acre agriculture
● https://communities.grdc.com.au/crop-nutrition/7722-2/ Kick-Start Crops with Compost (GRDC research)
● http://www.ausworm.com/ – Australian Worm Growers Association