• Agricultural Field Demonstrations: Remediating Low Soil Organic Matter with Compost in Pepper and Corn Production - Tuesday, August 8, 2017 at


  • Agromin, in partnership with SA Recycling and Circle Vision, have commissioned a six-month, 36-acre field demonstration in Coachella, California to assess the economic value of compost applied to carbon deficient soils.  

    The soil at the property contains less than one percent of organic matter on a dry weight basis. Pepper and corn crop yields at the Coachella property are low by California standards, producing 1,250 carbons of peppers versus an average of 1,800, with 430 boxes of sweet corn against a market average of 500.  

    Benefits of Organic Matter Between three and six percent organic matter levels in the soil is generally considered ideal and known to maximize yields while reducing water use and fertilizer leaching. Organic amendments improve water holding capacity and soil structure by reducing density and increasing porosity. This improved soil structure enables deep root growth, a reduction in surface water evaporation and wicking of salts and an enhancement of the environment for growth of beneficial microbes responsible for transporting nutrients into plants. Compost brings organic nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium to the soil so that the need for synthetic fertilizers is minimized. 

    Introducing Biochar to Meet Environmental Challenges One of the challenges with building up soil organic matter in a place like Coachella, where summer temperatures reach 120 degrees F, is premature compost degradation. Therefore, the trial has included an additional treatment combining compost with biochar, with the expectation that biochar will stabilize the compost. 

    Biochar is the black carbon residue produced from heating wood under an oxygen-deficient environment at high temperatures. Originally known as "Terra Preta" (black soil), biochar was created by indigenous people in the Brazilian Amazon over 2,000 years ago using cooking fires. Soil containing biochar have maintained exceptionally high levels of fertility and soil organic matter across the ages in environments that are otherwise devoid of rich plant growth. The world's most productive agricultural soils found in the U.S. Corn Belt, northeastern China and the Ukraine are rich in biochar created from naturally occurring vegetation fires. 

    Study Expectations With the introduction of compost and biochar into the soil, we expect to see yield improvements in excess of 20 percent and the naturally occurring compost nutrients eliminating the need for fertilizer. Overall, after factoring in the compost costs (purchase, transportation and application) we anticipate an overall profitability increase by well over $1,000 per acre. 

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