While compost is known to be an economic and environmentally friendly way of reducing wastes in landfills, its application can also help improve soil quality and productivity as well as the sustainability of agricultural production by supplying nutrients and replenishing soil organic matter which plays an essential role in soil physical, chemical, and biological fertility. Explained below are the effects of compost on soil properties.
1) Reduction of Bulk Density
Compost helps in lowering soil density due to the mixture of low-density organic matter into the mineral fraction, thus, influencing soil structure.
If there is low bulk density, it simply means there is an increased pore space but when compost is applied, there is an increase in the portion of macro and micro-pores due to an improved aggregation and stabilization of soil significantly initiated by different soil organisms.
To add with, the organic fraction is much lighter weight compared to the mineral fraction in soils. Thus, increases in the organic fraction result in a decrease in the total weight and bulk density of the soil.
2) Improve in Water Availability and Retention
Due to the fact that compost can increase organic matter content, they are applied to help in improving soil fertility and quality most especially sandy soils and this is because sandy soils do have low water and nutrient holding capacity.
Apart from that compost application helps to improve water holding capacity, water/soil infiltration, and improve the soil structure which reduces erosion.
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3) Improve in Soil Organic Matter
Compost application is known to increase soil carbon and total nitrogen concentrations. Compost can also be used to increase carbon sequestration in soils.
4) Increase in pH Value
Soil pH is essential for crop cultivation due to the fact that several plants and soil microorganisms have slight alkaline or acidic conditions thus, having an influence on their vitality.
Also, pH has an influence on nutrients available in the soil. Compost is rich in alkaline cations and thus, its application has a limiting effect. These cations were liberated from organic matter due to mineralization.
In a similar way, regularly applied compost material helps in enhancing or maintaining soil pH. However, studies show that in certain cases there was a decrease in the pH after compost application but such cases were few.
5) Promotion of Soil Biology
Compost application provides a source of nutrients to soil microorganisms. Asides from that, it increases the abundance of soil organisms and stimulates microbial growth and activity.
6) Enhancement of Nutrient Concentration
Application of compost from municipal solid waste and dairy manure increases concentrations of N, P, K, Can, Mg, as well as S. Also, it increases the concentration of a variety of essential trace elements in the soil.
Compost serves as a source of nutrients and organic matter and is very much economic and environmentally-friendly. When compared with manure and plant residue, compost releases nutrients more slowly and possesses longer-lasting effects. However, note that the effects of compost on soils are likely to be strongly dependent on the composition of the compost as well as soil type.