Leaf mold compost shows benefit for tomato plants in urban soils

Many urban gardeners know that adding ingredients like compost and mulch to their soil has great benefits. But it can be difficult to know what to add and why. Researchers at Purdue University gathered scientific evidence about one specific soil addition, leaf mold compost, and how it benefits tomato plants.

Degraded soils often found in places like towns and cities can lead to vegetables growing poorly and not producing as much food. In addition, these communities produce many kinds of waste that can be composted. In this study, the researchers used “leaf mold” compost from deciduous tree leaves, a common waste stream found in urban areas.

“Leaf mold compost differs from traditional compost in that it is not stirred as much,” says Lori Hoagland, a professor of soil microbial ecology at Purdue University. “This slows down the time it takes to create compost but is claimed by growers to generate a higher quality or more ‘disease suppressive’ compost. In particular, leaf mold compost is expected to promote greater colonization by beneficial fungi, which we evaluated in this trial.”

The study was published in Urban Agriculture & Regional Food Systems Journal, a publication of the American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America. The researchers tested if leaf mold can help tomato plants produce more tomatoes. They also evaluated if fungal inoculates, often sold to increase tomato yields, get a boost from leaf mold.

Read the complete article at www.agronomy.org.

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