24 July 1998

Compost offers crop protection

By Tom Linton

A COMPANY which is conducting research into composted waste believes it will have a marketable product that will suppress a wide range of soil-borne and fungal plant diseases within two years. These include fusarium and take-all in cereals.

EcoSci, which has laboratories on the campus of Exeter University, is studying ways of turning leachates extracted from compost into an odourless spray and root drench for use on field and fruit crops.

It has received a £45,000 DTI-sponsored award to further its research, bringing its total recent government funding to £215,000.

The company, which is collaborating with scientists from Plymouth and Exeter universities, already has encouraging signs that composted material applied to the topsoil can suppress a range of diseases, including root-rot in peas, red-core in strawberries and white rot in onions.

Replicated trials with brassicas indicate complete suppression of club-root.

EcoSci, which has had success in suppressing potato blight, is trying to produce a standard product for commercial use.

The company composts more than 30,000t of green waste a year. About 7000t of that is municipal waste treated at its main development base at Plymouth City Councils landfill site.

The various formulations are composted in windrows 40m (134ft) long by 4m wide and 2.5m high (8ft). Interior temperatures of 70íC can be generated which ensure a high pathogen kill.

"We have enough data to select specific organisms that will address specific diseases," says TomYoung, managing director of EcoSci. "These are about two years from becoming a marketable product." &#42