Applying compost and clay to soil can improve constraints such as water stress in sandy agricultural soils, according to a study published by researchers from The University of Western Australia.
The study, published this month in Biology and Soil Fertility, showed that compost played a significant role in influencing the bacterial community in the soil under water stress, and can in fact build its resilience to water stress. These findings have beneficial implications for water-limited agricultural production systems.
Dr Bede Mickan conducted the research as part of his PhD studies in UWA’s School of Agriculture and Environment and Institute of Agriculture. He said composts are known to improve soil fertility, and we now know they can also help ameliorate the impact of water stress on soils.
“Management practices that improve soil structure and soil organic matter content are vital to support crop and pasture production, and it is well known that composts can improve soil structure, soil health and fertiliser use efficiency,” Dr Mickan said.
“The findings from this study are exciting because they showed that compost can also reduce the influence of water stress on the rhizosphere bacterial community, thus increasing its resistance to drought.”
The aim of the study was to determine whether compost and clay amendments in a sandy agricultural soil influence the soil bacterial community known as the rhizosphere microbiome. Subterranean clover plants were grown in soil that was amended with compost, clay, or a combination of both, with well-watered and water-stressed treatments.
“We demonstrated that compost and clay under water stress plays a significant role in influencing the composition of rhizosphere bacteriaunder water stress, and their implications for nitrogen cycling and carbon degradation,” Dr Mickan said.
The paper Application of compost and clay under water-stressed conditions influences functional diversity of rhizosphere bacteria was published in the journal Biology and Fertility of Soils. Dr Bede Mickan recently completed his PhD studies at UWA and is currently the Research and Development Manager at Richgro.
Dr Bede Mickan (Research and Development Manager, Richgro) (+61 8) 6258 7100 / (+61 4) 37 534 927
Diana Boykett (Communications Officer, The UWA Institute of Agriculture) (+61 8) 6488 3756 / (+61 4) 04 152 262