Mamma Yohannesu was an old woman living with her grandson. She had a very small field of about 10 x 25 m. The soil was rather sandy. She managed to make about five sacks of compost in her field. Later, she planted finger millet in the same field. She not only got a fantastic yield for her efforts – equivalent to 10.6 tonnes/ hector but was able to buy another plot of land with her profits.
Such is the magic of composting which is a method of transformation of organic material (usually waste) through decomposition into soil- integration/enhancement material.
Why should I do Composting?
Composting is important because:
1. It contains the essential plant nutrients- NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium).
2. Compost provides the soil with ‘humus’- decayed and decomposed remains of living organisms and a source of Carbon and Nitrogen which is the ‘holy grail’ for the growth and development of any living thing on earth!
3. Compost also helps in holding air and water by the soil and makes the trace elements (minerals) available for the plant from the soil throughout the growing season.
4. Compost improves the soil structure so that the plant roots can easily reach down into the depths of soil sub layers due to the porosity and humidity that the humus provides the clay/sandy soil. Thus soil erosion by wind/water is prevented.
5. Humus is a dark brown or black soft spongy or jelly-like substance that holds water and plant nutrients. One kg of humus can hold up to six litres of water. (Isn’t that wow?!)
6. During dry seasons, humus can hold onto the water in soil for much longer than soil without humus. During rainy seasons, the rain water can easily seep into the soil as it is very porous and runoffs are thus prevented. When the rain water seeps into the soil and reach the water table, the springs don’t dry up in dry seasons. (A virtuous cycle!)
7. Compost helps in controlling weeds, pests and diseases. Fertile soil produces strong plants that help in resisting of weeds and insets.
8. Compost helps famers to increase their productivity of land and their incomes too! Composts are made without having to pay cash or borrow loans like in case of chemical fertilizers. (No deaths of farmers anymore!!!)
What will I need to do composting?
|Plant Materials (both dry & green)||Water source||Animal source|
|Weeds and grasses from in and around the field||Collected rainwater||Night soil- Human faeces- as some villages still lack the concept of toilet and follow the habit of passing excreta in open soil.|
|Wastes from cleaning grains, cooking, household waste, leftover food, tea/coffee waste.||Collected wash waster- from washing vessels, clothes and floor||Animal droppings from cows, rabbits, donkeys, mules, buffaloes, etc can be collected with care and stored in for composting|
|Crop residues such as stem, leaves, straw and whatever is left over behind after harvesting||Animal urine collected in containers early in the morning from animals such as cows, rabbits, donkeys, horses etc.||Chicken droppings are very important as they are rich in Nitrogen|
|Garden wastes such as old leaves, dead flowers, hedge trimmings, grass cuttings, etc.||Human urine – containers can be provided and urine can be collected except for the early morning first urine.||Animal dung contains water, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium as well as other micronutrients essential for the soil|
|Dry grass, hay, straw left over from feeding animals||Water can also be collected from ponds, dams, streams and rivers||Good quality of compost can be obtained only by adding animal dung as they are high in potassium and nitrogen as well which converts nitrogen into nitrates that can be used by the plants|
|Dropped leaves and stem from almost any tree and bush except for those which had tough leaves or possess strong smell||When there is too much water and little air, nitrogen is converted into ammonia leading to the bad smell|
|Stems of cactus or prickly pear can be used if they are crushed and chopped up.||Under such circumstances, the compost needs to be turned over bringing the top to bottom and vice versa and mixing more of dry materials and some good soil too!|
Points to be considered:
• Ash from wood and charcoal are good to mix as they contain phosphorus, potassium and micronutrients such as zinc, iron and magnesium.
• Looking for larger organisms such as beetle and earth worms from the vermi compost always helps.
• Composting facilitators and promoters are also important because they provide key bacteria, fungi and other microbes and these organisms have a high rate of reproducibility that helps in maintaining the condition of the compost.
• Good time for starting off with composting is when the moisture is limiting, esp. after rainy season.
• The pits can be dug and kept ready during the rainy season itself as the land will be moist.
• Make the place of pit with a ring of stones or concrete fence so that people do not fall into it accidentally!
I have the things ready, how do I go about making the compost?
There are mainly two ways in which the compost can be made:
1. The Indore method
• Can be prepared either in a pit or as a heap or pile above the ground but its preparation should be completed within a week.
• It uses a sequence of three layers of materials: dry plant materials, green plant materials, animal manure and some soil.
• It is suitable for times and places where there are plenty of materials to make mature compost and labour, such as in a school or farming.
2. The Bangalore method
• Prepared where the compost materials and availability is limited, so is the labour
• Components can be collected over week or more and then the new layers are made until the heap is over 1-1.5 metre tall or the pit is full.
• It used two layers of materials-the dry layer and the green layer.
• It is very suitable for making compost from household wastes or in farms where there is no availability of domestic animal waste.
3. The “SankalpTaru” method: This way of composting involves 6 layers of different materials:
a) The vermi compost layer-
• Vermi composting means the use of earthworms for composting organic residues.
• Earthworms can consume practically all kinds of organic matter and they can eat their own body weight per day, e.g. 1 kg of worms can consume 1 kg of residues every day.
• The excreta (castings) of the worms are rich in nitrate, available forms of P, K, Ca and Mg.
• The passage of soil through earthworms promotes the growth of bacteria and actinomycetes.
• Actinomycetes thrive in the presence of worms and their content in worm casts is more than six times that in the original soil.
• A moist compost heap of 2.4 m by 1.2 m and 0.6 m high can support a population of more than 50 000 worms.
• The introduction of worms into a compost heap has been found to mix the materials, aerate the heap and hasten decomposition.
• Turning the heaps is not necessary where earthworms are present to do the mixing and aeration.
• The ideal environment for the worms is a shallow pit and the right sort of worm is necessary.
• Lumbricus rubellus (red worm) and Eisenia foetida are thermo-tolerant and so particularly useful.
• Field worms (Allolobophora caliginosa) and night crawlers (Lumbricus terrestris) attack organic matter from below but the latter do not thrive during active composting, being killed more easily than the others at high temperature.
• European night crawlers (Dendrabaena veneta or Eisenia hortensis) are produced commercially and have been used successfully in most climates. These night crawlers grow to about 10-20 cm.
• The African night crawler (Eudrilus eugeniae), is a large, tropical worm species. It tolerates higher temperatures than Eisenia foetida does, provided there is ample humidity. However, it has a narrow temperature tolerance range, and it cannot survive at temperatures below 7 °C.
b) Layer of babul cake-
The babul leaves and pods are very useful in fodder and forge. They have very good pathogenic qualities and their lyophilized forms help in increasing the nutrient content of soil as they contain 20% of required proteins and minerals. The bark and gum of this evergreen tea also has amazing medicinal properties which help in controlling insects and weeds.
c) Layer of neem cake-
• Nature Neem cake is the residual neem seed meal obtained as residue while extracting Neem Oil from Indian Neem Seed Kernels by Cold Pressed Extraction Process.
• The Nature Neem Cake is used as good organic manure in agriculture and also acts as pest repellent.
• The high Azadirachtin content in Nature Neem cake helps in protecting the crops against parasitic nematodes and as best soil conditioner.
• The quality of the neem cake is determined by the amount of oil left in it, and also the process by which the extraction was done.
• The Physical form of the Oil Neem Cake is in Powder or Flakes form.
• The following is a list of the phytocomponent of the neem cake:
Azadirachtin : min 1000ppm (0.1%)
Nimbin : min 850 ppm (0.085%)
Salanin : min 1500 ppm (0.15%)
Moisture content : NMT 10 %
Nitrogen : min 4.0%
Phosphorus : 3.0%
Potassium : 1.67%
Carbon : 1.2%
Sulphur : 1.2%
Magnesium : 0.75%
• The Nature neem seed cake was found to be effective against pests viz.,Helicotylenchus erythrina, Meliodogne arenaria, Meloidogyne incognita, Pratylenchus sp, Haplolaimus indicus M.javanica (Root- knot nematode found in vegetable crops like Okra, Chili, French bean, Tomato, Black gram, Green gram, Egg plant, etc), Parasitic Fungi, R.brassica, Reniform Nematode, Rodopholus similis (banana) Trylenchor hynchus etc.
• How to use the neem cake:
1. During the first ploughing apply 250-400 Kg of nature neem seed cake per hectare as soil application and subsequently 50-60Kgs as per the crops need.
2. Apply 1 kg for plots of 10 to 15 sq. meters.
3. Neem cake can also be mixed with soil and apply on and around the roots of the plants, Vegetables, bushes and trees, will have a remarkable result in the improvement of the plant immunity.
4. Neem Cake can be applied safely in all cultures, fruit-bearing, garden products, Melon, cotton, tobacco, Vineyard and Flowers.
• Mechanism of Action of the neem cake:
1. Neem seed Cake is improving the general appearance of fruits & vegetables and increasing the leaf age, growth, blossoming and strengthening the roots
2. When mixing with any Nitrogenous fertilizers, it slows the conversion of Nitrogenous compounds into Nitrogen gas, thus making Nitrogen available to the plants for a longer duration.
3. Due to its lack or imbalance of Nutritious and trace element it prevents and treats ailment disorders of plants
4. It accelerates root development and overall plant growth and protects the plant from Nematodes and white ants.
5. It is a totally organic plant food which increases productivity and soil fertility.
6. It has antifungal properties and highly suitable for application in Greenhouses.
• Effect of Neem cake on various crops
1. ORANGE: Controlling Citrus Nematodes
2. TOMATO: Controlling Tomato Seedling Nematodes
3. TOBACCO: Controlling Root-Knot Nematodes
4. RICE (coated with Urea): Increasing Nitrogen Uptake by slow release of Fertilizer Urea.
d) Layer of coconut pete-
• Coconut fibre and coconut shells can be used in your backyard compost.
• Generally with a coconut the meat and the milk of the coconut will be used as food, but you will be left with a lot of excess waste.
• As you can imagine the coconut core and shell doesn’t break down very easily, so you will want to try to break up the coconut into smaller pieces before putting it into your compost bin.
• Be careful when breaking up the coconut, it’s not worth hurting yourself over as even if left whole the coconut will eventually breakdown, it will just take more time. Try placing the coconut pieces in a sturdy bag and giving it a few whacks with a hammer, but please be careful. The smaller pieces will have an easier time composting into soil.
• The fibre of the coconut will help retain water in the compost pile and when broken down will add to nutrient rich soil.
• If you don’t use the coconut milk you can pour it onto the top of the compost, but drinking the milk is a tastier option.
• Remember, coconut milk is not the same as the water found in the middle of the coconut. That water can be used in a few different ways including being added to the compost. The milk is squeezed out of the meat of the coconut.
e) Lyophilized oil from lemon, grape fruit and acid lime are very good at repelling beetles from pulse crop.
f) Garlic oil can also be used which is known to keep the ‘kaphra beetle’ from the crops.
g) Ground black pepper can eliminate rice weevils.
h) Neems seed powder mixed with wheat in 1:2 ratios can help in fighting off rive weevils and kaphra beetle for about 260 days.
i) Cowpea seeds treated with neem kernel oil at 8ml/kg is effective against pests and insects.
When the options of organic availability are so huge and easy to obtain, why should we all opt for synthetic products which not only harms our environment but also brings about change in the plant nutrient content resulting in diseases in humans?!?!
The best of waste can happen only when we think best for the environment and ourselves!