Guam – “Crafting compost may be the best thing you can do for your soil and garden,” says Western Pacific Tropical Research Center (WPTRC) soil scientist and University of Guam professor Dr. Mohammad Golabi.
He has been researching the effect of compost on plant growth, soil quality improvement for many years. Organic material such as kitchen scraps, leaves, grass cuttings, shredded paper and cardboard can be converted from waste to organic fertilizer through the composting process. Bacteria and microorganisms work to break down these materials into a rich mixture that, once it is matured, may be added to the soil for improving physical properties, balance soil chemistry, increase available nutrients for plants, and improve other soil properties such water holding capacity of the soils during dry conditions.
Dr. Golabi has been also monitoring the possibility of adverse effects of compost on ground water. Golabi’s research for this particular project is being supported through the federally funded T-STAR grants as part of the WPTRC research programs at UOG. “In this project we are trying to answer three main questions: by adding compost to the soil, what is the impact; on soil, on plants, and on the groundwater,” says Golabi. “It was uncertain whether the addition of paper and cardboard to the compost would allow unfavorable trace elements to leach into the ground water.”
[Large-scale composting at the WPTRC Agriculture Experiment Station in Yigo]
“Our research showed that with the addition of compost to our experimental plots, the soil quality was improved, plants were healthier and more resistant to insects and disease than plots using chemical fertilizers,” states Golabi. “Also, crop yields were higher and of better quality from the fields treated with compost compared with fields treated with chemical fertilizers.”
Using instruments to measure the leachate, Golabi and his team have found that the soil with added compost released nutrients slowly, thereby allowing plants to effectively absorb the nutrients. In contrast with the fertilized fields: almost 40% of the fertilizer was found below the root zone, where the plants cannot utilize it.
“I highly encourage everyone to convert their organic waste (kitchen scraps, grass cuttings, etc.) to compost in order to enrich the home garden soils for healthier plants and higher quality produce.”
“In a study we did in collaboration with the University of Okayama in Japan, we found that almost 80% of garbage generated in Guam’s households is organic in nature (in another word compostable). Composting would reduce waste slated for landfill while improving soil quality through adding mature compost to farmlands and garden soils,” says Golabi.
For more information on successful backyard and/or large scale composting contact Dr. Golabi at his University of Guam Soils Laboratory at: 735-2134/2100.