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.
Poor soil structure
Good soil structure
Less fertilizer plus compost
More fertilizers every year
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
1 ton = 2.5 yards (approximately)
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
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
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.
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.
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
This page was last updated on: January 23, 2018