Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type



Proceedings of the 23rd North American Prairie Conference, August 2012, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

The Prairie Naturalist 46: 50-61. August 2014


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society, 2014. Used by permission.


Compost is a commonly used soil amendment in horticultural and agricultural practices that is generally known to improve soil conditions and plant growth. We conducted a field experiment to investigate the application of compost to prairie production plots as a method to improve seedling establishment and growth and the seed production of established plants. We evaluated the effect of compost depth and tillage on the survivorship, growth, reproduction and ecophysiology of several prairie plant species commonly used in restoration. Results were mixed; for some species, transplants in compost–amended plots incurred lower survivorship and reduced growth compared to control plots. When compost was used for transplants, improved growth and reproduction were observed more often if compost was tilled into the soil. No benefit from compost was observed for flower and seed production in established prairie species. Compost can be useful in promoting better growth in prairie plots, but its application can produce negative outcomes under certain conditions.