Building Soils for Better Crops, Third Edition

Summary and Sources



Composting organic residues before applying them to soil is a tried and true practice that can, if done correctly, eliminate plant disease organisms, weed seeds, and many (but not all) potentially noxious or undesirable chemicals. Compost provides extra water-holding capacity to a soil, provides a slow release of N, and may help to suppress a number of plant disease organisms as well as enhance the plant’s ability to fight off diseases. Critical to good composting is to have (a) plentiful decomposable Cand N-containing materials, (b) good aeration, (c) moist conditions, and (d) enough size to allow high temperatures to develop. It is also necessary to turn the pile or windrow to ensure that all the organic materials have been exposed to the high temperatures. While these and other good reasons to make and use compost are important considerations, there are also good reasons to directly apply uncomposted organic residues to soil.


Cornell Waste Management Institute,

Epstein, E. 1997. The Science of Composting. Lancaster, PA: Technomic Publishing Company.

Hoitink, H.A.J., D.Y. Han, A.G. Stone, M.S. Krause, W. Zhang, and W.A. Dick. 1997. Natural suppression. American Nurseryman (October 1): 90–97.

Martin, D.L., and G. Gershuny, eds. 1992. The Rodale Book of Composting: Easy Methods for Every Gardener. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press.

Millner, P.D., C.E. Ringer, and J.L. Maas. 2004. Suppression of strawberry root disease with animal manure composts. Compost Science and Utilization 12: 298–307. Natural Rendering: Composting Livestock Mortality and Butcher Waste. Cornell Waste Management Institute,

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Richard, T. 1996b. Solving the moisture and carbon-nitrogen equations simultaneously.

Rothenberger, R.R., and P.L. Sell. Undated. Making and Using Compost. Extension Leaflet (File: Hort 72/76/20M). Columbia: University of Missouri.

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Weil, R.R., D.B. Friedman, J.B. Gruver, K.R. Islam, and M.A. Stine. Soil Quality Research at Maryland: An Integrated Approach to Assessment and Management. Paper presented at the 1998 ASA/CSSA/SSSA meetings, Baltimore. This is the source of the quote from Cam Tabb.

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