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Compost-mulch saves water, improves soil

Written by Katie Webster

Dry conditions across Australia and the restrictions applied to irrigation have prompted many growers to consider how best to manage their limited water. One option to consider is mulching.

Mulches can conserve soil moisture by protecting the soil surface. Direct sunlight can heat the soil, and warm or low-humidity air can move across the soil surface causing evaporation and drawing moisture via capillary action from deep in the soil.

A wide range of materials may be available in most regions for use as a mulch. One material that has been the subject of considerable field research is compost-mulch.

---Topics in this article---

  • Compost-mulch
  • Newly established orchards
  • Water infiltration
  • Other benefits
  • Effects of compost texture
  • Compost supply

--Figures--

  • Figure 1. Higher soil moisture holding capacity of the topsoil was evident when measures were conducted shortly after winter rains. Where compost mulch had been applied four years previously under 13-year-old Van cherries at Forreston South Australia, soil moisture was 30% higher.
  • Figure 2. Infiltration rate was increased where compost mulch had been applied four years previously under 13-year-old Van cherry trees at Forreston, South Australia.
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