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Agronomy 2019, 9(4), 193;

Compost as a Substitute for Mineral N Fertilization? Effects on Crops, Soil and N Leaching

Department of Agronomy, Food, Natural resources, Animals and Environment (DAFNAE), Viale dell’Università 16, 35020 Legnaro (PD), Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 6 March 2019 / Revised: 29 March 2019 / Accepted: 12 April 2019 / Published: 15 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Cropping Systems)
PDF [765 KB, uploaded 15 April 2019]


A three-year study was conducted to test the fertilization properties of different types of compost as the total or partial mineral nitrogen fertilization substitute in an herbaceous crop succession (Zea mays L., Triticum aestivum L. and Helianthus annus L.). Four types of compost (i. green cuttings and depuration sludge, ii. green cuttings, organic fraction of municipal wastes and other organic materials, iii. green cuttings, iv. green cuttings and organic fraction of municipal wastes) and eight fertilization treatments (combining: unfertilized control, 100% mineral fertilization, 100% compost, and 50% compost +50% mineral fertilization) were evaluated in terms of: (i) crop yields and nitrogen uptake, (ii) soil organic carbon and nitrate nitrogen soil contents variation, and (iii) residual nitrate nitrogen leached at the end of the experiment. Maize grain yield ranged from 5.2 ± 1.0 Mg ha−1 to 7.4 ± 0.7 Mg ha−1 with the highest value in the mineral fertilization treatment and the lowest values in the 100% compost fertilization. Wheat and sunflower grain yields were not significantly different among control, mineral, compost, or mineral/compost fertilization treatments with average values of 5.1 ± 0.7 Mg ha−1 and 2.3 ± 0.3 Mg ha−1, respectively. Cumulative crop yield at the end of the three years was not affected by the compost type, but was affected by fertilization treatment (highest values with mineral and 50% compost +50% mineral fertilization). The compost application did not highlight a relevant effect on soil organic carbon. Under 100% of compost fertilization, the crops did not take up a large amount of the N supplied, but it did not generate an increase of NO3-N leaching in the percolation water. Obtained results show the good fertilization properties of compost whereas the amendment property was not relevant, probably due to the low rates applied and the short experimental period.
Keywords: Zea mais L.; Triticum aestivum L.; Helianthus annuus L.; organic fertilization; mineral N fertilization Zea mais L.; Triticum aestivum L.; Helianthus annuus L.; organic fertilization; mineral N fertilization
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Maucieri, C.; Barco, A.; Borin, M. Compost as a Substitute for Mineral N Fertilization? Effects on Crops, Soil and N Leaching. Agronomy 2019, 9, 193.

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