UC studies the use of compost to restore burned areas

May 8, 2009

Scientists at UC Riverside will apply compost to wildfire-ravaged land after the flames have been doused to determine whether it helps reduce erosion and water pollution and restore vegetation. The project is one of several to be undertaken with funding from the California Integrated Waste Management Board aimed at finding uses for what is expected to be an abundance of compost made from organic waste diverted from landfills, according to a story in the April issue of BioCycle.

The Waste Management Board plans to cut the amount of organic materials now going to landfills by half in the next 10 years. Meeting that goal will require an additional 15 million tons of organic materials to be recycled annually.

The Riverside scientists will quantify the benefits of compost on fire-damaged land by absorbing water, thus reducing surface flow, and by dissipating the energy of rainfall. The study will also attempt to quantify the ability of compost to promote the growth of micro and mesofauna (microbes, worms, insect larvae) in the fire-damaged soil, the BioCycle story says.

Another UC Riverside study funded by the Waste Management Board is focused on using the compost in strawberry, lettuce and tomato production.

Developing crop-specific compost specifications helps farmers avoid using mismatched or poor quality composts, which could result in lower crop yields, according to the article.

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist