Innovative Uses of Compost: Using Microorganisms Instead of Pesticides for Farming

Summary

Farmers in the United States have been plagued for years by expensive unsustainable agriculture. More than 10 percent of the vegetables planted in the United States are lost to root rot alone. Moreover, this figure is mounting every year. To change agriculture to allow it to become sustainable and to protect the environment by getting rid of chemicals, the United States Environmental Protection Agency decided to use a cost-effective and information intensive approach to encourage farmers to change their way of farming. The primary reason for the agency's involvement in this problem was that it was an excellent opportunity for them to try to eliminate or at least minimize the use of farming chemicals. Thanks to the University of Florida's Tropical Research and Education Center and its findings into the benefits of composting for farming, the agency had an angle to try to convince the farmers to step away from chemicals. Some of the University's findings included, successful competition for nutrients by beneficial microorganisms, antibiotic production by beneficial microorganisms, successful predation against pathogens by beneficial microorganisms, and activation of disease-resistant genes in plants. These new findings come from the advantages of composting on a large scale. In other words, scientists discovered a way for compost to suppress diseases by enriching it with specific disease-fighting microorganisms. Rather than chemical use, scientists tried to show farmers that, not only was it beneficial for the wallet, but also it was also safer. It replaced pesticides, fungicides, and nemacides and did not affect water resources and food safety.

Results

Although there are no clear results concerning the effect this had on the farming community, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, more and more farmers are decreasing their chemical use to grow and protect their crops and are profiting from the process. In fact, professional growers have seen their bills decrease from 400 million dollars per year for chemical products to 250 million dollars per year for composting products. This figure suggests that farmers are changing from chemical farming to more environmentally responsible methods.

Prepared by: Serge Langis and Jennifer Parker

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