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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Compost Effect on Water Retention and Native Plant Establishment on a Construction Embankment

Authors
item Singer, Jeremy
item Malone, Robert
item Tomer, Mark
item Meade, Terry
item Welch, J - URBAN RESOURCES

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 16, 2006
Publication Date: October 31, 2006
Citation: Singer, J.W., Malone, R.W., Tomer, M.D., Meade, T.G., Welch, J. 2006. Compost effect on water retention and native plant establishment on a construction embankment. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 61(5):268-273.

Interpretive Summary: Compost amendment of soil provides multiple benefits. Studies have documented the effect of compost on soil properties, but information reporting benefits to soil and plant establishment on non-agricultural soils are lacking. Our objective was to determine if yard-waste compost application at different slope positions affects water content and native plant establishment at a construction embankment in Altoona, IA. After three years, more plants were found in the upper slope in the compost plots than the non-compost control, but plant community composition was generally similar. Plants growing on compost-amended soil were larger than plants growing without compost. Water content after rainfall was greater in the compost compared to the no-compost soil and lower versus upper slope, averaged across 25 sampling dates. Applying yard-waste compost to construction embankments can increase water retention after rainfall and support more productive plant growth. City and regional planners should consider adding compost to roadway embankments and other construction sites where plants will be established to reduce soil erosion and stormwater runoff.

Technical Abstract: Compost amendment of soil provides multiple benefits. Studies have documented the effect of compost on soil properties, but information reporting benefits to soil and plant establishment on non-agricultural soils are lacking. Our objective was to determine if yard-waste compost application at different slope positions affects water content and native plant establishment of a construction embankment in Altoona, IA. After three years, species density was greater in the upper slope in compost vs. the no compost control (10.9 vs. 6.3 species m-2), but plant community composition was generally similar. Pooled across slope position, shoot biomass was greater in the compost vs. control treatment (395 vs. 154 g m-2). Water content was greater in the compost vs. control (5.2 vs. 4.8 cm) and lower vs. upper slope (5.2 vs. 4.9 cm) averaged across 25 sampling dates. Applying yard-waste compost to construction embankments can increase water retention after rainfall and support more productive plant growth.

Last Modified: 12/21/2014
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