Saturday, March 5, 2011


Composting is a natural biological process that accelerates the breakdown of organic materials. The product of composting is compost, an essential part of healthy crops.
The composting process supports the production of beneficial micro-organisms that create humus. Humus is rich in nutrients that are slowly released into the soil for plant use and improved soil structure. The organic matter in compost increases the soil’s ability to retain moisture and reduces its erosion.[1] Researchers also believe that organic farming with compost decreases the occurrence of insect problems and plant diseases.
According to a research study performed at the University of California at Berkeley, organic fertilizers improve the overall nutritional status of crops, and also support resistance to insect attacks.[2] Furthermore, a study conducted by Italian researchers in 2004 claims that composting improves the soil porosity and the soil aggregation. The results of this study confirmed that compost improves soil pore system characteristics.[3] Better infiltration of both air and water into the root zone improves plant health. The combination of less fertilizer being applied and better penetration into the soil reduces runoff into rivers and streams as well as erosion of topsoil. In fact, researchers at the University of Missouri concluded that: “The use of food waste in producing composts for amending soils removes a major and problematic component from the waste generation cycle and provides a valuable, recycled product that can benefit soil fertility and crop productivity.”[1]  Finally, composting conserves the landfill space and serves also as a marketable commodity.

[1] Nathan Means, Christopher Starbuck, Robert Kremer, Lewis Jett , “Effects of a Food Waste-based Soil Conditioner on Soil Properties and Plant Growth”, Compost Science and Utilization June 2005,
[2] Miguel A. Altieri, Clara I. Nicholls, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, Division of Insect Biology, “Soil fertility management and insect pests: harmonizing soil and plant health in agroecosystems”, University of California at Berkeley, March 2002,

[3] M. Pagliai, N. Vignozzi, S. Pellegrini, Istituto Sperimentale per lo Studio e la Difesa del Suolo, Italy, Soil structure and the effect of management practices”, September 2004,


  1. Hi Jana,
    We met the other day at Hilltop Hanover Farm. Stop by any time and let me know how the composting is going. Best of luck on the blog!

  2. Thank you Jenny! It was very nice meeting you. I will try to make it for one of your volunteer days.