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Compost in Broadacre Agriculture Literature Review

Added Tuesday, April 1 2014

Compost in Broadacre Agriculture Literature Review

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While compost is reasonably simple to use and the basic effects are fairly simple to list, the science behind compost in soils is extremely complex. There is an exceedingly intricate web of relationships between chemical, biological and physical factors in the soil. Scientists dealing with the field generally focus on one small aspect in order to have a reasonable chance of developing an in depth understanding and design insightful experiments. As a consequence, the scientific literature in relation to compost is a tropical jungle, with papers hidden all over the place in tree forks, inside technicolor fruits and under the leaf litter. Retrieving enough of these papers to start to get a coherent picture of the state of compost knowledge requires hunter gatherer skills that can take up a lot of time. In order to help things along, every so often good-hearted shamans take it upon themselves to comb the jungle on behalf of hungry knowledge seekers and create a synthesis of the current knowledge on a particular topic. Like giant clams (to switch metaphorical ecosystems) they sift the scientific seawater to extract fragments of information to build them into pearls of understanding.

Literature reviews save an amazing amount of time, and provide the opportunity to build new ideas on the shoulders of those who have gone before. In this section of the website we are going to present a series of literature reviews built around both the science and our practical experience. They won't have all the references and the dry language in pure science writing, but we hope that you can use them to build new ideas on the shoulders of our work.

As a starter, here is an actual scientific literature review done by our own resident scientist, John Barton. This hasn't been submitted for publication in a journal, as they usually commission people to do them rather than accepting submissions. This review was performed for his honours thesis at university. It's well worth a read to get a picture of the current scientific knowledge of compost in agriculture. Most of the concepts apply to any situation where there are plants growing in soils, but the numbers would change in most cases.

Compost in agriculture literature review - PDF