NCAT NCAT ATTRA ATTRA

Sign up for the
Weekly Harvest Newsletter!

Published every Wednesday, the Weekly Harvest e-newsletter is a free Web digest of sustainable agriculture news, resources, events and funding opportunities gleaned from the Internet. See past issues of the Weekly Harvest.
Sign up here


Sign up for the Weekly Harvest Newsletter

What Is Sustainable Agriculture?

Master Publication List

Search Our Databases

Urban Agriculture

Energy Alternatives

Beginning Farmer

Field Crops

Crop Insurance

Horticultural Crops

Livestock & Pasture

Value-Added Food Products

Local Food Systems

Food Safety

Marketing, Business & Risk Management

Organic Farming

Pest Management

Soils & Compost

Water Management

Ecological Fisheries and Ocean Farming

Other Resources

Sign Up for The Dirt E-News

Home Page


Contribute to NCAT

Newsletters

Newsletter sign up button

· Privacy Policy · Newsletter Archives


RSS Icon XML Feeds

RSS 2.0: Events, Breaking News, Funding Opportunities Atom: Events, Breaking News, Funding Opportunities

 

NCAT strives to make our information available to everyone who needs it. If you are a limited-access or low-income farmer and find that one of our publications is just not in your budget, please call 800-346-9140.

 

How are we doing?

 

Home > Soils & Compost > How to Add Compost on Your Small Farm

How to Add Compost on Your Small Farm


Published
December 2017
©NCAT
IP555


Abstract

Compost provides nutrients to plants, improves soil structure, increases water-holding capacity, and suppresses root diseases by supporting beneficial microorganisms in the soil. It also helps improve porosity and the friability or ability to work the soil. It also increases water penetration and exchange of gases, reduces compaction, and improves soil texture.

Compost can…

 

Improve drainage and reduce flooding

boiling sap in an evaporator
Poor Infiltration
boiling sap in an evaporator
Good infiltration

 

Improve soil structure

boiling sap in an evaporator
Poor soil structure
boiling sap in an evaporator
Good soil structure

 

Improve soil health and nutrient supply

boiling sap in an evaporator
Less fertilizer plus compost
boiling sap in an evaporator
More fertilizers every year

 

How to Add Compost to Your Farm

  1. How much compost do I need?
  2. 5 to 10 tons per acre is ideal, but lesser amounts, 1 to 2 tons/acre, also help improve soil quality and function.
    Not more than 15 tons per acre.
    For 1 acre: 5 to 10 tons
    For 2.5 acres: 13 to 25 tons
    For 3 acres: 15 to 30 tons

  3. Does the company sell by the yard or ton?
  4. 1 ton = 2.5 yards (approximately)

  5. How much will it cost? (Note: compost costs vary around the state of California, but generally range from $30 to $50/ton)
  6. For example, compost costs $49 per ton, but how much per cubic yard? $49/2.5 = $19.60 per yard
    For example, compost costs $17 per yard, but how much per ton? $17 x 2.5 = $42.5 per ton

  7. Does the compost company deliver and spread? What is the cost of each?
  8. For example, if it costs $39/ton (2,000 lbs) for compost including delivery, and $10/ton to have it spread:
    If adding 10 tons/acre:
    For 1 acre of compost delivered + spread on the farm = 1 acre x 10 tons/acre x $49 = $490
    For 2 acres of compost + spread on the farm = 2 acres x 10 tons/acre x $49 = $980
    If adding 5 tons per acre:
    For 1 acre of compost spread on the farm = 1 acre x 5 tons/acre x $49 = $245
    For 2 acres of compost spread on the farm = 2 acres x 5 tons/acre x $49 = $490

  9. Timing of compost application varies
  10. Many farmers spread compost in the fall so when spring arrives the material is incorporated into the soil. Fall applications also are used because the weather may allow applications before planting in the early spring. In order to reduce nutrient leaching, a late winter or early spring application can be done if there is a dry period that would allow it.

 

Further Resources

Solid Waste Information Service
List of compost sellers around the state of California; Sites with Composting Facility and with Operational Status Active and with Regulatory Status Permitted.

Compost Application
Washington State University Extension.
Website contains images regarding different methods of compost application to fields. To use an image, click on the thumbnail and you can view and download the full-size file.

Compost Use in Agriculture
California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).
Website contains case studies of compost use, scientific research on compost use, tools, and resources.

Making and Using Compost for Organic Farming
By Emily Marriott and Ed Zaborski, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, through eXtension.
Covers overview of composting process, National Organic Program (NOP) rules, Compost Quality and Application Rates.

Compost Rates for Optimum Yield in Organic Crop Production.
2011. Crops & Soils Magazine, July-August 2011, pp 27-32.

Improving Compost through Application Methods
By R. Alexander, C. Wagner, Teas Cooperative Extension.
Provides information on agricultural, turf grass and specialized applications, as well as selection of application methods.




How to Add Compost on Your Small Farm
Published December 2017
Cathy Svejkovsky, Editor
Amy Smith, Production
Abigail Larson, HTML Production
IP555
Slot 578
Version 010918

 

Back to top

This page was last updated on: January 23, 2018