Strive for 5% – 5 Points to Ponder
The US Composting Council launched a ‘Strive for 5%’ organic matter campaign in late 2011, in conjunction with the introduction of the Consumer Compost Use Program. This informational program is designed to reinforce the idea promoted for many years by gardening experts that soils should contain at least 5% organic matter. We believe that the most cost efficient, effective and environmentally sound way to maintain or increase this level is with STA compost!
The ‘Strive for 5%’ campaign uses nationally recognized and accepted benefits of compost use (American Association of Plant Food Control Officials [AAPFCO] final bulk compost rules 2010) as the foundation for compost benefits claims. These include:
- Compost improves soil structure and porosity – Compost physically loosens soil and helps create a better plant root environment. Plants are only as healthy as their root systems allow them to be!
- Compost increases moisture infiltration and permeability; reducing bulk density in heavy soils while also improving the moisture holding capacity of light soils – Water is a precious and limited resource. Improving moisture infiltration rates, reducing erosion and runoff, reducing water loss and nutrient leaching, and improving moisture retention are all derived from compost use.
- Compost supplies organic matter – Organic matter serves as a reservoir of nutrients and water in the soil, aids in reducing compaction and surface crusting, and increases water infiltration into the soil. Organic matter is necessary for ongoing soil health, and serves as a fast-acting nutrient supply, while also working in a time-release manner. In effect, while plants feed off of active materials, the more stable materials are gradually converting into usable nutrients. In addition, the stable decomposing forms quickly absorb available soil nutrients for plant use. (University of Minnesota Extension). Compost supplies lots of organic matter!
Here are some useful links and sources for more extensive facts on the benefits of organic matter and compost:
- Compost allows plants to more effectively utilize nutrients, while reducing nutrient loss by leaching – Chemical fertilizers are expensive and becoming restricted in many parts of the US due to environmental concerns over Nitrogen and Phosphorus pollution. Compost allows the consumer to use less, and to make their use much more effective. Most compost is also a source of slow release nutrients, which do not pose the same environmental concerns as fast release, soluble nutrients.
- Compost supplies beneficial microorganisms to soils – Compost is a living product. Healthy soil is a living material, ideally filled with beneficial microorganisms. As small as they are, soil microorganisms are the real giants in your garden, and your garden soil should be swarming with millions of these microorganisms. This “living-soil-life” helps; keep your soil healthy, decompose organic matter, replenish soil nutrients, form humus, promote root growth, increase nutrient uptake, and breakdown herbicides and pesticides. These microorganisms include bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa. Good quality compost provides this source of life!
Compost can be purchased at landscape supply centers, nurseries and building supply centers around the country in either bulk or packages. REMEMBER: Consider bulk buying wherever possible. Most compost is sold in 1 cu. ft. bags. It takes 27 bags to = 1 cubic yard. Do the math and make a wise buying decision!
The use of STA compost will help you confidently achieve 5% organic matter efficiently and cost effectively by using compost, produced from locally recycled organic residuals.
Director, Market Development
US Composting Council