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2024 Speakers

Mary Cole

Mary Cole, Speaker at Plant Science Conferences
The University of Melbourne, Australia
Title : Using the urban and farming waste streams to improve soil health in agricultural systems


Victoria, Australia, has recently introduced food organics into the green organic urban collection for recycling rather than going to land fill. Developing fit-for-purpose products from this combined waste in the form of thermal aerobic compost was carried out together with feedlot manure which also did not have a fit-for-purpose end product. A grant from Sustainability Victoria allowed field and replicated research trials on these raw materials to be combined such that the end products had good fungal:bacterial ratios, good ammonia:nitrate ratios for perennial and annual crops and useful data on the impact of these products on the soil biota, soil organic matter and plant health. As was expected, the fresh organic mater composted under thermal aerobic conditions faster than the straight aged feed lot manure. A blend of 75% food and green organics (FOGO) and 25% aged feedlot manure (FLM) showed the highest total carbon and highest carbon:nitrogen ratio. The 25% FOGO and 75% FLM gave the highest total nitrogen. Replicated trials were carried out on two soil types for pasture: two soil types for vegetables and two different vegetable types with 6 treatments and 5 replications. The treatments were: untreated control, FLM, aged finished thermal aerobic compost, freshly composted FOGO, blend of 50% FLM and 50% FOGO, and compost tea made from high quality fungal dominated compost. Interestingly, compost tea alone gave results that stood up against the other products. This will be useful for farmers who cannot make sufficient compost to cover their farms but have the capacity to make good quality compost tea. Also, the data will allow waste streams from city urban collections and feedlots to be introduced into the farming systems improving soil and plant health. The urban waste streams become urban resources for the farming community.


Dr Cole graduated with a PhD in plant pathology from Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, in 1998, and lectured at Charles Sturt University, NSW, Monah University, Victoria and is currently an Honorary Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. In 1980 she established Agpath Pty Ltd where she works with farmers and students around the world in the benefits of organic/regenerative agricultural systems for future-proofing farming again climate change and improving soil and plant health. Dr Cole was awarded the 2021 Holt electorate Australia day award for community service. She holds a CAg, Ag Institute of Australia Accredited Charted Agriculturist.

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