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Mass of rotted organic matter made from decomposed plant material. It is used in agriculture and gardening generally to improve soil structure rather than as a fertilizer, because it is low in plant nutrients. When properly prepared, it is free of obnoxious odours. Composts commonly contain about 2% nitrogen, 0.5–1% phosphorus, and about 2% potassium. Lime and nitrogen fertilizers and manure may be added to speed decomposition. The nitrogen of compost becomes available slowly and in small amounts. Because of their low nutrient content, composts are applied in large amounts.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on compost, visit Britannica.com.