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Compost - Project Background

The National Strategy for Biodegradable Waste calls for a biological treatment capacity of 320,000 tonnes by 2016. It is recognized that agriculture and horticulture represent large potential markets for this recovered material. Government policy is to support the use of compost in agriculture. This project will supply the scientific basis for developing guidelines for the safe use of compost in crop production systems by studying nutrient availability in Irish compost. It will therefore support national policy and also safeguard the Irish environment.

The development of analytical and incubation methods to predict the availability of N and P in compost to plants will provide a basis for analyzing composted materials in the future thus facilitating their safe use in cropping systems.

The study of the disease suppressiveness of Irish compost and the development of disease suppressive production systems will enhance the use of compost in agriculture. It also has the potential to reduce the use of pesticides in container and field production systems.

A policy meeting in the EU Commission Joint Research Centre, Seville, 2006 on the End of Waste Project underlined the need for developing environmentally safe methods for compost application in agriculture and for improving the functionality of compost to facilitate market development. This project supports both these aims. Worldwide, the cost of fertilizers is increasing and this trend is likely to continue. It therefore makes more sense to re-cycle as much locally sourced biodegradable waste material into agriculture as is possible, both from an economic as well as an environmental point of view. If the development of analytical methods to predict nutrient availability is successful this information can easily be transferred to other countries to facilitate the use of compost in agriculture.