Does Compost Use Affect Post-Harvest Quality of Vegetables?
Use of composts produced from our society’s organic “wastes” is a practice which can potentially contribute to sustainability not only for agriculture, but for society as a whole. However, it can be an expensive practice which is difficult to justify economically. Compost testing generally measures yields, and sometimes includes some information on nutrient uptake. This often does not show the true picture of the all the potential benefits of compost use. Tests on plants grown in compost-amended soils often show increased calcium contents. Since calcium strengthens cell walls and often increases vegetable and fruit storage quality, we wondered if compost use might contribute to these increases.
We will grow four common vegetables: peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce, with and without compost, to see if the compost will help them to keep longer, and if those grown with compost contain more calcium. Demonstrating that compost increases quality of vegetables could help growers and compost producers. Small growers often market their product at outdoor facilities and may lack access to cooling and other storage facilities. An organic practice which would increase product shelf-life could greatly help to contribute to their profitability. Compost producers and Extension professionals would have another reason to recommend compost use for all growers if it can be shown that the use of compost contributes to increased post-harvest quality. Organic and sustainable producers who use composts could use this as an additional marketing tool to promote their produce to retailers and consumers.