Compost Application Practices for Revegetating Disturbed Soils

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Virginia Tech

Urban development alters the physical and chemical properties of soil which presents challenges for vegetation establishment. Compost, when applied as a soil amendment, can help to ameliorate these challenges. In field trials, we evaluated the effect of surface-applied composts and standard hydroseeding applications on changes in soil properties and turfgrass stand on a highway roadside. The short-term effects of (1) no compost application; (2) 2.5 cm compost surface mulch; (3) 2.5 cm compost application, incorporated; (4) 5.0 cm compost application, incorporated; (5) 0.6 cm compost blanket; and (6) straw mat on turfgrass establishment, quality and changes in soil properties were measured on an urban soil devoid of topsoil. In greenhouse studies, we compared the effect of depth of planting of two variously-sized turfgrass seeds in compost. The soils of the disturbed roadside and the urban soil had increased Mehlich I-extractable soil K, Mg, and P following compost application. Analysis of botanical composition on the highway roadside demonstrated that the percentage of fescue decreased with time, while weed species increased inversely in both treatments. Compost amendments on the urban soil increased turfgrass color over time, whereas turfgrass density was not affected by time. Turfgrass density was greatest in applications of a 5 cm depth compost incorporated 7-10 cm into the soil. No differences were observed in biomass harvested among treatments. Tall fescue seeds had greater germination and establishment than smaller sized bermudagrass seeds when sown below the surface of compost, regardless of depth. Composts help to regenerate topsoil-like functionality in disturbed soils by promoting vegetation establishment, including weeds, on highway roadsides and improving turf quality on urban soils.

soil nutrients, tall fescue, turfgrass quality, compost