Compost Compact.

Compost Compact.

first_imgWith help from University of Georgia experts, Georgia farmersthink they may have found a simple replacement for a chemicalthey hoped they’d never lose.Farmers would keep on using methyl bromide to control soil-bornediseases of vegetable crops if they could. But they can’t. Nowdefined as a chemical that depletes the ozone layer, methyl bromidewill be phased out by 2005, a government ruling that worries farmers.Replacing Methyl Bromide”Methyl bromide is very important to us,” said BillBrim, a Tifton, Ga., farmer. “Right now, we’re just tryingto figure out what we’re going to do when they take it away fromus.”In a joint effort with the UGA Coastal Plain Experiment Stationin Tifton, Ga., Brim and other farmers believe they’ve found asafer replacement: compost.A high-quality compost of the perfect mixture of yard waste,gin trash, culled vegetables and poultry litter, they say, couldhelp protect plants from disease. The compost could make fertilizerand irrigation more effective and help the environment, too.Because of the warm climate and long growing seasons in theSoutheast, vegetable crops are highly susceptible to disease.If vegetable growers can’t control those diseases, they can’tcontinue to farm, said David Langston, an Extension plant pathologist with the UGA College of Agriculturaland Environmental Sciences.Composting to Increase Beneficial OrganismsSoil in the Southeast, particularly in south Georgia, is extremelysandy. Nutrients can leach quickly through this soil.The sandy soils have little organic matter. And intensive tillingspeeds the breakdown of the little there is. “Most soil inthis area has less than 1 percent organic matter,” said KeithRucker, a Tift County extension agent.Soil contains microscopic pathogens that can damage plants,Rucker said. But it also contains beneficial organisms that cansuppress the pathogens. Research has shown that compost can increasethe number of beneficial organisms, improve the soil and suppressdiseases.”Compost increases the organic matter and nutrient-holdingcapacity of sandy soil,” said Darbie Granberry, a UGA ExtensionService vegetable horticulturist. “And it helps stretch the farmer’sfertilizer dollars.”Granberry said compost also extends the use of waste material,such as municipal waste and poultry litter, that would otherwisebe a burden on the environment.Two years ago, Brim and other farmers around Tifton, Ga., becameinterested in the benefits of applying compost to vegetables grownon plastic-film mulch. They can now produce as much as 8,000 tonsof compost annually, at a cost of $30 per ton.On-Farm Research PlotsBrim allocated part of his land to create research plots. CAESscientists will collect data from these plots and help in furtherstudies to find economical ways farmers can manage to their crops.Early data shows that transplants grown in greenhouses withcompost tend to be larger and more robust. By using compost, Brimsaid he has reduced irrigation by as much as 30 percent and increasedthe fertility of his soil.With help from UGA, Brim applied for a Southern Region SustainableAgriculture Research Education (SARE) grant to fund the researchon the farm.The federal grant allows farmers to develop their ideas intoviable practices and technologies with the help of CAES faculty. Information from the research is then shared with other farmers.”It’s an opportunity for researchers and extension peopleto work with the farmer,” Granberry said, “and to helpsolve a particular problem he has on the farm.””We’ve worked really close with the researchers and theextension office with this,” Brim said. “Research isthe most important thing that can happen to agriculture rightnow. We’re just trying to find a way to keep a positive cash flow.”A field day Oct. 24 will showcase the on-farm plots. For moreinformation, call the Tift County Extension Service office at(229) 391-7980. Or e-mail [email protected]last_img

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