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Digging deeper into compost


IFTA delegates hear how research continues to determine what works and what doesn’t when organicmatter is added to soil.


By Scott Trudeau T


he 57th annual conference of the International Fruit Tree Association (IFTA) featured a variety of presentations focusing on precision orchard management. The event happened Feb. 22 – March 1 in Kelowna and included a post-conference tour from Feb. 27- March 1.


Among the presenters was Tom Forge, a scientist at the Pacific Agri- Research Centre who provided an overview about utilizing composts to improve soil health in orchards. Forge said information on the topic was the result of numerous trials conducted during the previous 20 years.


He explained soil health is determined by looking at organic matter and examining how to sustain it best.


“This is where compost utilization comes in and ultimately there are multiple ways of improving root growth and productivity,” he said, adding that in recent years a significant amount of research has been conducted on the topic of compost-induced disease suppression.


Forge explained that compost works by “inoculating the soil with certain organisms that have bio- chemical capacity and cause changes in the structure of micro-organisms.” These experiments have been conducted in containerized plants or bed-managed systems, such as with tomatoes, which allow large amounts of compost to be added to relatively confined rootstock.


“There’s still lots of open questions out there regarding whether this is actually unique to compost


British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2014 17


SCOTT TRUDEAU


Tom Forge, a scientist at the Pacific Agri-Research Centre in Summerland, was one of several presenters at the 57th annual International Fruit Tree Conference held in Kelowna during February.


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