COMPOST QUALITY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR REMEDIATING URBAN SOILS

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Abstract
Poor soil health is a critical problem in many urban landscapes. Degraded soil restricts plant growth and microorganism activity, limiting the ability of urban landscapes to perform much needed ecosystem services. Amending soil with compost can increase infiltration, microbial biomass, cation exchange capacity, available water holding capacity, and structural stability. Incorporation of approximately 33% compost by volume into degraded soil has been proven to improve soil health and structure over time while avoiding the financial and environmental costs of importing soil mixes. However, additions of high volumes of compost could potentially increase the risk of nutrient loss through leaching and runoff. The objective of our study was to consider the effects of different compost amendments on soil health, plant health and susceptibility to nutrient leaching. We conducted a bioassay to measure the effects of composts made from different feedstocks on various plant health characteristics. We also collected leachate during the experiment to measure nutrient loss from our different compost-amended soils. We found all compost amendments improved soil health. Nutrient-rich, manure-based composts produced greater plant growth, but also leached higher concentrations of nitrate and phosphorus. We found composts made from food scraps or leafy green waste provided sufficient nutrients for plant growth without excess nutrient loss. Using our findings along with those found in the literature, we provided ranges of compost characteristics to inform the selection of compost for on-site soil remediation. Additionally we concluded, careful consideration of soil texture and an understanding of the conditions and limitations of the intended remediation site are vital in achieving optimal results.
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2019-08-30
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Compost Quality; Nutrient Leaching; Soil Remediation; Urban Soil; Horticulture; Compost
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Committee Chair
Bassuk, Nina Lauren
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Walter, Michael Todd
Bonhotal, Jean F.
Degree Discipline
Horticulture
Degree Name
M.S., Horticulture
Degree Level
Master of Science
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Government Document
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dissertation or thesis
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