About 1% of New Zealand farmland is managed organically. Nitrogen is the nutrient most likely to limit organic crop production. A potential solution is incorporation of compost to supply N. About 726,000 t of municipal garden and kitchen wastes are sent to landfills annually. Composting offers a means of reducing the impact of landfill wastes on the wider environment. Organically certified compost (N content typically 2% to 2.5%) is available from some municipal composting plants. To be effectively used on organic farms, the rate of N release (mineralization) must be known. Laboratory incubations were conducted to quantify mineralization of compost N under controlled (temperature and moisture) conditions. Nitrogen availability and crop yields from a one-off application of compost (25–100 t·ha−1
) were also assessed in two field trials (using cereal and forage crops). The results suggested that a relatively small part (13%–23%) of compost N was used by the crops in 3–4 years. Much of this was mineral N present at the time of application. Mineralization rates in the laboratory and field studies were much lower than expected from published work or compost C:N ratio (considered an important indicator of N mineralization potential of composts).
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