The Compost Genome Project

by James McSweeney


Two exiting projects came out of our partnership with the UVM Department of Plant and Soil Science this year. The first was a replication of the early blight suppression research testing several distinct compost products in 2011. The second project, which is still on-going, is looking at the unique soil microbial communities found across composts made with different parent materials, using different methodologies (including worm composting), and at different stages throughout the process.

Not only does compost provide fertility to soil, but it has promise to enhance biological control of soil-related diseases. It provides a medium to manage diseases that organic farmers contend with on an annual basis, but have no other options available. It is a win/win/win for nutrient retention on farms, soil fertility and tilth, and pest management…”
–Deborah Neher

Deborah Neher (UVM), chair of our Research and Education Advisory Board, has been on sabbatical at the University of Colorado where she is using high-throughput DNA sequencing to map the bacterial and fungal communities in our compost. This research, which is still a wide-open field, might provide compost operators with methods to increase the population of beneficial microorganisms. Early anecdotes from the study show the presence of the nematode eating Arthrobotrys as well as several other known pest biocontrols such as Pseudomonas and Bacillus.