Evaluation of Manure Compost on Vegetable Production

Prepared by Tom Gonsalves, MAFRI Provincial Vegetable Crops Specialist (BDS)

The use of manure compost as a soil amendment in the production of field crops in Manitoba has been evaluated over the years. However the use of manure compost in vegetable crop production in Manitoba and the effect of crop rotations on the use of manure compost in vegetable crop production in Manitoba have not been evaluated. There are a large number of different soil amendments being used in Manitoba on land where vegetables are produced. Some examples of these amendments include;

  • Manure
  • Partially rotted manure
  • Properly composted manure

From a food safety perspective the use of manure that has not been properly composted is an unacceptable agricultural practice. Therefore this evaluation will focus on properly composted manure. In order to evaluate the efficacy of manure compost in vegetable production, Manitoba Agriculture, Food & Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) has partnered with the Canada Manitoba Crop Diversification Centre (CMCDC) at Portage la Prairie and Agriculture Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Brandon Research Centre (BRC) to conduct an evaluation. The BRC has on-site source manure compost that has been used in non-vegetable crop production in the previous years and will be our source of compost for these evaluations.

Field Evaluations 2011

The plots will be planted on irrigated land at the CMCDC Portage site. Soil test results on this area showed residual nitrate levels at approximately 25 lbs/A and extractable phosphate concentrations that range from 9 to 18 ppm (medium to high). The demonstration design will use three treatments in the crop production evaluation.

Based on soil test results, the treatments will be

  • Synthetic fertilizer (to meet crop requirements)
  • Compost @ 10t/A (with supplemental synthetic N & P to meet crop requirements)
  • Compost @ 20 t/A (with starter synthetic N)

These treatments will be applied prior to planting this spring.

The vegetable crops used in this evaluation will be

  • Direct seeded carrot varieties
    • Nantes Coreless
    • Red Atomic
    • Purple Haze
    • Nutri-Red
  • Direct planted red tablestock potato variety
    •  Dark Red Norland
  • Transplanted peppers
    • Early Prolific (Green Pepper)
    • Banana Supreme (Sweet Pepper)

After harvest the vegetable crops will be assessed for the following parameters

  • Carrots
    • Total yield
    • Marketable yield
    • Forking
    • Disease assessment
  • Tablestock Potatoes
    • Total yield
    • Marketable yield
    • Undersize yield
    • Oversize yield
    • Percent hollow heart
    • Disease assessment
  • Peppers
    • Total yield
    • Marketable yield
    • Disease assessment

Rotational crops will be planted in 2011 so that the same vegetable crops (listed above) can be planted in 2012 to that area. The rotational crops planted will be

  • Wheat
    • Variety to be determined
  • Silage corn
    • DEKALB DKC26-79 (RT)(BT)
  • Hairy vetch (green manure)
    • Variety to be determined

After harvest the rotational crops will be assessed as follows

  • Wheat
    • Yield
    • Bushel weight
  • Silage Corn
    • Silage yield

The hairy vetch as a green manure crop will be ploughed down @ approximately the 50% bloom stage.

Post harvest soil testing will be conducted on the plots to determine residual fertility levels and allow for proper fertilization in year two of the evaluation.

Plot design is laid out below in table 1 with replications to be taken at harvest in sub-plots.

Table 1: Plot Design of Manure Compost on Vegetable Crops
  Carrot Alley Way Pepper Table Potato Alley Way Wheat Alley Way Silage Corn Alley Way Hairy Vetch Plot Length
Headland                     30'
Compost @ 10 t/A                     30'
Synthetic Fertilizer                     30'
Compost 20 t/A                     30'
Headland                     30'
Plot Width 12' 8' 12' 12' 8' 40' 8' 40' 8' 40'  

Field Evaluations 2012

Provided that funding support is available, the same compost / fertilizer treatments will be repeated prior to planting in 2012 using the same protocols as used in 2011. The carrot, pepper and tablestock potato plots will each be sowed into the areas planted to the rotational crops (wheat, silage corn and hairy vetch) in 2011. The 2012 crops would be harvested and assessed using the same criteria as in 2011. Post harvest soil testing would be conducted to determine residual fertility levels.

Resource Links

For further information contact

Tom Gonsalves, MAFRI Provincial Vegetable Crops Specialist

Kathy Buckley, AAFC Research Scientist - Integrated Agricultural Management at katherine.buckley@agr.gc.ca

Craig Linde, MAFRI Diversification Specialist

From the April 2011 edition of CROPS E-NEWS (subscribe)