Friday, August 25, 2017

Composting is an ancient practice; chemical fertilizers are a recent invention.

Composting is a traditional farm practice photos, passed on to us since the start of agriculture. Dr Abe V Rotor

Composting is a traditional farm practice, passed on to us since the start of agriculture on the Fertile Crescent, and most likely in other places like ancient China, many centuries BC. The principle involved is the same, although the technique has been improved a lot.   

There are three components to produce ideal compost: 
  • animal manure (and chicken droppings), 
  • crop residues (hay and stalks, weeds, fruit peelings, etc), and 
  • loamy soil.  
All you need to do is to make several layers of these materials one on top of another, either in the form of a pile (preferred during the rainy season), or in a shallow pit (for the dry season), of any dimension that is suitable. Install some bamboo tubes to serve as posts and  “breathers” to allow air circulation in the pile or pit. The breathers work like chimney.  Punch the nodes to make a continuous tube, and make several holes staggered along its length. Moisten the pile as needed.  Too much water is not advisable.

Composting also uses seaweeds (like Sargassum) that litter coastlines; scums and algae growing on lakes and rivers; rinds and peelings of cacao, coffee, pineapple, and the like; corn cobs and husk, rice stalk and rice hull ash in rice and corn lands.  Then we have a lot of coconut husk and leaves, and copra meal wastes in coconut areas; guano (bat droppings) in caves; and a long list of materials from wastes in fishery, slaughterhouses, food manufacturing.  Lest we forget, the biodegradable materials by tons and tons which urban centers are turning out every day. The biggest bulk is domestic waste which the Chinese have developed a technique to converting it into humanure for their farms and gardens. A recent composting technique is with the use of biological agents like the earthworm (vermiculture). 

To hasten composting, farmers practice microbial inoculation with Trichoderma (fungus), Rhizobia (bacterium), Anabaena, (Blue Green Alga),   Nostoc (also a BGA), Saccharomyces (yeast, an Ascomycetes fungus), and many other microorganisms ubiquitously occurring in nature.        

What really is the secret of compost in enriching the soil?  Here are the benefits.

1.  It contains both major and minor elements (chemical fertilizers are specific only to the elements they supply). 

2. The release of nutrients is slow but continuous, allowing both crop and soil to adjust properly. 

3. The organic content of compost improves tilth (ease in cultivation), as well as the physical structure of the soil. 

4. Compost enhances favorable microbiological condition of the soil.  Fifth, it improves retention of soil moisture. 

5. It makes working on the soil a lot easier because of its porous nature.   

6. It stabilizes soil acidity (pH). 

7. It is not only a good source of income; it is a dollar save.

8. Composting, sanitation and beautification complement one another. ~

With spiraling cost of chemical fertilizer and its cumulative residues that pollute the rivers down to the sea, and destroy the ecosystem, it is time to go back to this ancient practice of composting.  It is the solution to many of our problems in meeting our need for enough and healthy food, and in helping keep the balance of nature.~ 

Newly harvested compost ready for use; composting at home.
(Acknowledgement: Internet, Wikipedia)

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