An agroecological structure model of compost—soil—plant interactions for sustainable organic farming
Compost is used worldwide as a soil conditioner for crops, but its functions have still been explored. Here, the omics profiles of carrots were investigated, as a root vegetable plant model, in a field amended with compost fermented with thermophilic Bacillaceae for growth and quality indices. Exposure to compost significantly increased the productivity, antioxidant activity, color, and taste of the carrot root and altered the soil bacterial composition with the levels of characteristic metabolites of the leaf, root, and soil. Based on the data, structural equation modeling (SEM) estimated that amino acids, antioxidant activity, flavonoids and/or carotenoids in plants were optimally linked by exposure to compost. The SEM of the soil estimated that the genus Paenibacillus and nitrogen compounds were optimally involved during exposure. These estimates did not show a contradiction between the whole genomic analysis of compost-derived Paenibacillus isolates and the bioactivity data, inferring the presence of a complex cascade of plant growth-promoting effects and modulation of the nitrogen cycle by the compost itself. These observations have provided information on the qualitative indicators of compost in complex soil-plant interactions and offer a new perspective for chemically independent sustainable agriculture through the efficient use of natural nitrogen.