Mature, well-made compost is fundamental to organic farming. It is a stable, slow-release fertilizer that builds up soil life and will not “burn” plants. Synthetic amendments and manure can provide soluble nutrients for plant growth but do not build the soil’s long-term biological reserves as well as compost does.
When compost is properly managed, the result is the best soil amendment a farmer can use. Compost substantially increases the water holding capacity of the soil helping farmers to produce a good crop even in years of low rain. The addition of compost will keep the soil pH at levels crop plants prefer saving farmers the cost of lime and gypsum applications. Compost improves soil structure and stability, recycles nutrients, stabilizes volatile nitrogen, converts wastes into resources and suppresses soil-borne diseases. The composting process destroys weed seeds and pathogenic microorganisms, while beneficial microorganisms grow and multiply in great numbers. And soil microorganisms work non-stop to build structure and prevent erosion.
Despite the long and ancient history growers have had with compost, we are still far from perfecting the process. Rodale Institute has been making compost for decades and continues to research and refine best practices related to making and using this valuable resource.