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For many farmers, rebuilding the level of organic matter in their soils is a process that can take many years, oftentimes only seeing small gains. But Kennett Square, Pa., no-tiller Jamie Hicks has seen the organic matter in some of his soils rocket from 1% to up to 5% in a relatively short period of time by spreading mushroom compost.
Perhaps even more significant to Hicks’s bottom line; the compost now makes up about 90% of his fertility program. The Hicks Brothers 4,500-acre, family-owned farm is run by Jamie and his cousin, Peter. They grow mostly hay, but they plant about 1,100 acres of corn and 800 acres of soybeans every year as well—along with some wheat and rye.
“Cover crops, no-tilling and building big root masses have all helped, but I would give the compost almost all the credit for bringing organic matter levels to where they are,” says Hicks. “We’ve been spreading the compost on since the 1990s and it’s interesting to compare it to land we’ve just recently picked up. It’s surprising just how mellow, almost like potting soil, our ground is in comparison. The new soil is as hard as a rock.”
Of course, not every farmer has the level of access to mushroom compost as Hicks does…