The Effect of Compost on Tomatoes

Homegrown tomatoes give you bragging rights on your own non-gardening neighbors. Growing tomatoes is sometimes elevated to an art form, with close attention paid to each growth stage of the plants’ growth. Adding compost to your regimen can function as one tweak that takes your tomato gardening into another level. Scientific research shows that spreading enhances tomato growth, fruit production and disease suppression.

Compost and Vermicompost

Compost is a superior soil conditioner that’s the ultimate recycled item. Larger organisms, such as beetles and earthworms, munch on yard waste and kitchen scraps and shred them into smaller particles which microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, break it down even further. The resulting product is called compost, which improves soil fertility, increases aeration and nourishes plants. Vermicompost is generated by earthworms, primarily red wigglers, and unites digested compost with nutrient-rich worm excrement, called castings.

Plant Growth

Compost is valued as a soil conditioner also for its ability to supply essential plant nutrients, some of which are often lacking in artificial fertilizers. Since tomatoes are heavy feeders over a long season, they benefit from the slow-release activity of compost. In a study done by the University of Connecticut, the simple inclusion of composted yard wastes accelerated tomato growth by three weeks. In a study published in a 2009 issue of “Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research,” both compost and vermicompost was shown to function as substrates that sustained tomato growth. Replacing peat moss, which is the standard potting-mix amendment for strawberries, with 100 percent vermicompost or even 20 to 30 percent compost caused significantly higher root and shoot growth.

Fruit Production

Many commercial growers utilize compost to increase fruit yields, which is a practice you can also apply. A 1998 study of tomato diseases and fruit production by the University of Connecticut demonstrated that commercial growers profited from growing tomatoes in compost-amended plots. Increased yields caused monetary benefit of $300 more per acre. Vermicomposted cattle manure and recycled paper and food waste were implemented to field-grown tomatoes in a 2000 experiment by Ohio State University. Results showed that plant yields were significantly higher from plots amended with vermicompost compared to artificial chemical fertilizers.

Disease Suppression

Tomatoes are susceptible to foliage, fruit and root diseases, particularly from Pythium, Rhizoctonia and Verticillium species pathogens, and parasitic nematodes, that are soil-dwelling roundworms. These diseases and insects cause reduced plant growth, yields and vigor. In 1998, Connecticut experienced unusually high disease levels for anthracnose, which is another severe tomato issue. Growers discovered that tomato crops in compost-amended plots showed significantly fewer difficulties than those grown in non-composted places. Ohio State University research demonstrated that tomatoes grown in vermicompost-amended substrates suppressed these diseases along with controlled nematodes The American Society for Microbiology isolated organisms in vermicompost that suppressed soilborne pathogens and noted that their connection in reduction of diseases.

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