Compost Magazine

Composting tips, advice and science.

A box of popcorn sits in a field surrounded by ripe corn plants.

Compost Makes Popcorn Pop Says Study

21st June 2023

Love your popcorn? 

Then you might be pleased to hear that compost doesn’t just improve soil and nutrition – it also increases how well popcorn pops!

That’s the latest findings of a study from South Africa, which has revealed that compost increases the ‘popability’ of popcorn.

(Popability, apparently, is common parlance in the popcorn world, although it’s a new addition to my vocabulary!)

Tackling a serious problem

The study has a serious point to it though.

The researchers argued that popcorn is important for South Africa as it is both highly nutritious and a popular snack. 

Unfortunately, the poor soil prevalent in the country means over 95% of the kernels used to make popcorn have to be imported. 

The researchers set out to find if compost could be a solution to the problem. After all, compost is easy and cheap to make and also carries major benefits for the soil

To test the hypothesis, they divided land into three sections – one untreated, one fertilized, and one amended with compost. 

The land had a type of soil called Ferric Luvisol, which is a common type of soil in the region, while the compost was made from local municipal waste and animal manure. 

Impressive Results: Healthier, Poppier Popcorn

The researchers were delighted with the results, stating that:

Popcorn nutritional values, expansion, and popping traits improved tremendously.

The results were on par with popcorn grown in soil with fertilizer. 

In fact, in some areas, the compost-grown corn was better than that grown with fertilizer, with increased protein and fiber intake. 

The “popability,” or popping potential, of the compost-grown popcorn also saw significant improvement, achieving high kernel expansion and popping percentages.

The researchers also pointed out that adding compost doesn’t just improve the quality of the corn – it also improves the quality of the soil. 

In summary, compost proved to be a viable alternative to traditional fertilizers, even on poor soil in an arid region. 


Dada, O. A., Mavengahama, S., & Kutu, F. R. (2023). Nutritional Quality and Popability of Popcorn (Zea mays L. var. everta) in Response to Compost and NPK 20-7-3 Application under Dryland Condition of South Africa. Research Article | Open Access, Article ID 6115098.


What is Ferric Luvisol soil?

Ferric Luvisol soil is a type of soil commonly found in semi-arid regions and characterized by a high content of clay and iron oxides. The term “ferric” indicates a high iron content, while “luvisol” refers to the soil’s specific classification under the World Reference Base for Soil Resources.

What was the artificial fertilizer used?

This was a standard inorganic fertilizer, specifically NPK 20-7-3. This type of fertilizer is a blend of three essential nutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), in a ratio of 20:7:3. 

Read more

23 Benefits of Soil Backed by Science
Is Compost-Grown Veg Better For You? Here’s What The Science Says

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *