Manure vs. compost — which is the better choice? Here are a couple of clues:
- The best thing about raw manure or poultry litter? It’s free.
- The best thing about compost? It works.
- Organic material (OM) is added to soils through manure decomposition. But the amount is about equal to the amount of organic matter lost through natural processes. That’s why you may see no rise in field OM even after years of manure applications. Compost adds stable organic matter.
- Compost is a concentrate. The amount of compost required is much less than the amount of manure required. This helps to cut total number of trips over the field.
- Compost keeps water and fertilizers at the root zone, mitigating fertilizer leaching, erosion and topsoil loss.
- The natural microbial activity of compost does lots of good things for soil which, in turn, does good things for plants. Researchers report improved nutrient uptake and resistance to pests and diseases.
- Compost is best for pasture and hay fields where raw manure applications can reinfect livestock with internal parasites, bacteria and viruses. Compost may be more palatable to grazing horses than untreated manure.
In the compost vs. manure debate, compost is the clear winner.