IRELAND: Composting to reduce landfill waste

Composting may be the key to solving high farming costs and plant disease, according to researchers at University College Dublin and Teagasc, the Irish agriculture and food development authority. Scientists at the two institutions have been looking at ways to use the growing number of landfills across Europe for the benefit of the agriculture sector.

As part of Ireland's national strategy on biodegradable waste, researchers at Teagasc's Kinsealy Research Centre in Dublin have partnered with University College Dublin to investigate ways of lowering the level of biodegradable waste ending up in municipal landfills. The best solution, they say, is to promote composting of biodegradable waste that can be distributed to agricultural areas.

"Composting organic waste has many benefits over landfill, namely a reduction in the volume of waste," says Dr Michael Gaffney of Teagasc's Kinsealy Research Centre.

Along with the benefit of reducing waste in landfills, the newly composted material will help farmers raise healthy crops. The researchers say the composted waste helps keep plants healthy through the suppression of soil-based diseases.

"Composting is an aerobic process and therefore produces carbon dioxide, whereas landfill is mainly an anaerobic process producing methane; and compost has the potential to be used as both a fertiliser and a horticultural growing medium," Gaffney says.

Compost can also offer an alternative to pesticides for farmers, as it acts as a natural biocontrol against plant diseases by joining with the plants and forming a barrier to protect them from any disease attempting to affect the roots, according to the researchers.

Furthermore, researchers hope this will provide a safer way to control plant disease without using pesticides that could cause harm to the environment as well as human health.