Composted yard waste benefits growers, say studies

11/15/2013 10:31:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

composted yard wasteCourtesy Washington State UniversityA grower spreads composted yard waste on his field. As an old adage goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

In this case, King and Snohomish county's garbage may provide treasured nutrients to nearby growers, according to a news release.

In 2008 when the economy went south, green waste compost that was being used for construction and landscaping began piling up at producers, such as Cedar Grove./

The company had been collecting urban food and yard wastes and turning into compost.

In 2010, the company approached Washington State University Snohomish County Extension about possibly selling the material to agriculture.

Trials conducted on three local farms showed significant improvements in crop yield after compost was applied.

For two years in a row, pumpkin yields increased by 20 percent and triticale, a grain, had a 100 percent yield increase.

“With the potential to increase production of some specialty crops by 20 percent, this could have a significant economic impact on Washington’s specialty crop industry,” Andrew Corbin, Extension agriculture and natural resources educator, said in the release.

In addition to the trials, Cedar Grove and the Snohomish Conservation District offered free loads of compost to 38 growers for them to try and evaluate on their own operations.

The results drew praise from participating growers, who reported healthier crops, better stand establishment and increased yields.

Lenz Enterprises was recently awarded a contract by the city of Seattle to compost up to one-third of its curbside food and yard waste. The company will join Corbin's trials this season.

A new three-year study is being funded in part by a U.S. Department of Agriculture specialty crop block grant.

It will include six research trials to evaluate yield, soil properties, water infiltration and other properties and up to 75 demonstration trials in Snohomish and King counties.

If you farm in those two counties and want to participate, contact Hallie Harness.



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