Compost Determinant Factors

Compost Determinant Factors

Particle Size Temperature Humidity pH C/N ratio Aeration Microbe growth There are a number of factors that need to be adjusted for the optimum quality and production time. Missing any one of of the above determinant composting factors will limit the effectiveness of the natural process taking place. Compost Component Particle Sizes All particles sizes need to be as small as possible. In a lengthy, natural process in the forest the particles are all shredded by larger macro-organisms like arthropods. But these larger insects we want to keep out of our pots… besides it takes months for them to shred plant materials. A small particle size gives easy access to the bacterias and fungus for molecular bond division. These two microorganisms will be breaking down the material by depositing digestive enzymes on the surface of the components. Bacteria and fungus do not have mouths. The material will need to be pre-digested for the microbes to absorb them into their tiny bodies. The materials we use for our high nitrogen compost at Organic Soil Technology comes to us inherently small particle sizes except for our sugar cane stalks.  The cane is already smashed and broken for microbe easy access but a last shredding is done. Our other components of rice hulls, manures and rice meal are already shredded giving them a large enough surface area for microbe access. Small particle sizes create more surface area. Surface area is an important component when we are talking organic technology. Surface area influences not only compost temperatures and rates, surface areas influence pot-substrate water retention and cation exchange capacity’s for nutrients. . Temperature Open air composting is an aerobic exthermo-biological reaction where temperature moisture and air all effect each other. Therefore proper temperature is important as heat is released in the procedure. You will find different recommended temp targets depending on which University’s information you are studying. But here at OST we maintain a higher temp than most recomendadtions. In our view high temperatures of between 65C and 75C should be maintained during the thermophilic stage. The major reason for high temperatures is to rid the materials of pathogens, live seeds and macro-organisms. The reason for keeping the compost below this range is because at higher temperatures there is a loss of nitrogen in the form of ammonia from vaporization when the C:N ratio is low. The C:N ratio also effects the temp. Too much carbon and your target temp might never be reached. So a drop in temperature when the compost is still young means the pile is becoming anaerobic. Anaerobic decomposition is a much cooler process. The pile will need aeration when the temp drops to get air to the aerobic microorganisms at work. As you can see monitoring the temperature during the process can tell you a lot. The temp should reach 70C within 2 to 3 days. Monitoring the temp throughout the composting will give you a good idea just where the composting process is. There will be different temps in the pile due to surface area loss and aeration. So go deep into the pile for readings. Sanitation | Lethal Compost Temp Specs Sanitation of the compost will take effect for different microbes at different temps and temp durations. Viruses 1-2 hrs at 55 to 70C Non-spore-forming bacteria 5 to 30 min at 50 to 60C Spore forming bacteria 5 to 10 min at 121C Fungus 1 to 2 hrs at 55c .  Humidity We need to keep the humidity percentage at about 60%. An anaerobic process will take over if the humidity is higher. Microorganisms use water...

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Compost Components

Compost Components

There are 4 major categories of component for Organic Soil Technology’s compost. These would be the same categories of materials that you would need as well if you would want to mount your own composting. Fibrous plant material with plenty of carbon Feedstock high in nitrogen or protein Sugar/carbohydrate source for microbe energy Biochar The above components have much to do with the C/N Ratio. To understand why the below components are necessary, check out the Carbon Nitrogen Ratio Post   Fibrous Carbon Source Animal Litter- Many components, materials or feed stocks used for a protein/nitrogen source could also contain carbon as well. So we wont try to place all types of materials in only one category. For instance animal litter, such as coming from poultry, would not only be high in nitrogen but fiber as well. At Organic Soil Technology we incorporate the bedding from chicken houses as well as pure droppings. Poultry droppings has always been recognized as an important component (D.R. Sloan, G. Kidder and R.D. Jacobs) in a variety of organic fertilizers. Fresh litter bedding in many countries, is pure rice hulls. After a few days it contains too much manure for the poultry and is changed. This poultry litter can be used for composting with a 10 to 20% nitrogen content and 80% fibrous hulls. Sugar Cane Stalks– For good or bad, right or wrong Costa Rica produces a lot of sugar. It is not grown organically and as we all know sugar cane plantations have a bad name ecologically. But for our organic compost we take advantage of their fibrous byproduct from the cane stalk that would normally be trashed. This is perhaps the best carbon source obtainable anywhere. After most of the sugars have been squeezed out of the cane in it’s processing, what is left is a superior composting material easily broken down by microbes like the Bacteria Actinomycetes. It serves as a carbon source along with added rice hulls. The wasted sugar cane stalks are ideal for composting because not only is much of the carbon in the cane available for microbe decomposition, it also has sugar residues embedded throughout its structural matrix. The sugars help to energize (feed) the bacterias and fungus while they are busy breaking down the other materials in the compost. Rice Hulls- The rice hulls actually have very little “available ” carbon since it is mostly composed of cellulose and lignin, too hard to break organic molecules that resist the decomposition process of most microbes. But some carbon is available and rice hulls add to the needed air flow in the compost pile and latter in the substrate. using rice hulls without first integrating them threw a 70C composting is not recommended. During the composting cycle the high temperatures render the few rice hulls that still are viable seeds, sterile and empty. . Nitrogen and/or Protein Source Why do we say “Nitrogen AND/OR Protein” source? Because either one will give us a usable nitrogen called Nitrate, which is one of the most important nutrients a plant requires for fast growth. Nitrogen is used by the plants to produce proteins for all cellular functions. So proteins contain a lot of nitrogen. Proteins can be easily broken down by microbes after the death of the plant as part of the nitrogen cycle into ammonia, NH3+. With the hard work of nitrosomonas bacteria it is converted into Nitrite, NO4-. At this point a group of bacterias called nitrobacter break it down to the final Nitrate the plants can actually absorb. So any source of Poultry Droppings– The droppings...

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Advantages of Composting

Advantages of Composting

Boy… lots of advantages to composting compared to the natural process of a fallen leaf that will eventually be recycled by mother nature. There are also advantages over chemically synthesized fertilizers. This is what technology is all about, whether we are going to Mars or the garden, composting is a very good example of how technology… organic technology is an improvement over what we have been handed by nature and what we have done in the past. The concentration of nutrients are higher in a composted material. The composted material, by reaching 70C (150F) is free of pathogens. There are no thermophilic microbes in the soils to break down the hard to restructure cellulose and lignin in cell walls. Lignin is a hard to break carbon chain comprising 25% of all cell walls. It is the hard brown material you see in tree barks and woody materials. (Microsoft word spell check can not be trusted with the word “lignin”. It will change it to “linguini”. So take care.) Compost renders the raw materials in 30 days compared to up to 200 days in a natural process. Composting makes use of more raw materials than what nature is given to use. Composting is less expensive than buying fertilizers. Composted fertilizers are beneficial to the environment compared to synthesized chemical fertilizers that leach and then contaminate the water-tables and rivers....

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Best Organic Compost Basics

Best Organic Compost Basics

Making the decision to use a live organic soil medium for your herbs and veggie plants is the best choice. It shows you are up to date on a rapidly developing earth progression as well as being cognoscente of advanced technology for herbal nutrition and taste. So since you are at the top of your class, try and remember all the details, even the ones that are not necessary in compost construction. The small unknown details are actually really fascinating. Making the best organic compost is a nobal endeavor. Live Organics is Microbes and Substrates Live organics means microbes and substrates. The substrates will most likely be chosen with built in nutrition.  Unlike traditional hydroponic systems, live organics is all about nutrition buffers (small batteries full of plant goodies) created by microbes and kept available via humus cation capacities. The substrate’s built in nutrition buffering humus is based on a compost. The best organic compost can be made by anyone with the time, interest and ambition to do so. But get ready… if you don’t have the time and knowledge to get it right, you might be better off letting a professional do it. Besides the practice and knowledge, you will be needing a few cultures of different beneficial microorganism (BM’s) groups and feed stock. You can do it without special microbe inoculation but to make the best compost it would be good to also know how to keep around some cultures of specially talented bacterias like lactobacillus and actinomycetes. A good collection of some beneficial fungus like trichoderma and levaduras are important as well. Three Phases of a Compost mesophilic phase (temps lower than 45C, with Bacillus mesophilos & Bacillus subtilis)) thermophilic phase (temps btw. 45-70C with Actinomyces thermophilus, Bacillus thermophilus & levaduras ) maturation phase Microbes in The 3 Phases of Composting Mesophilic Stage The cooler mesophilic stage of composting takes place below 40C. Mesophilic bacteria predominate at this stage however fungus will be found in all three stages of composting.  Bacterias are the most abundent microbe found in composting in general. They make up roughly 70% of the microbe compost population. They are the most divers microbe exuding more types of enzymes for molecular bond breaking than fungi. Most of the heat in a compost pile is from bacterial metobolic activity. Thermophilic Stage When the compost temp exceeds 40°C, thermophilic bacteria take over, mostly from the genus Bacillus. The different species of bacilli is very diverse at temperatures around 50°C and decreases at 60°C and higher. When temperatures become too high or low, bacilli form endospores  which are very resistant to extreme temperatures as well as a lack of moisture and food. When conditions permit, the spores open and the bacterias become alive and active once again. At temperatures at and above 70C, the genus of bacteria called Thermus take over. Cow droppings contain Thermus. Thermus can be found in hot springs and any other place a 70C and above temperature is naturally created in nature. Fungus in the thermophilic stage will be found in the cooler outer layers of the pile. Maturation Phase The maturation phase contains the 2nd phase of mesophilic decomposition as well as a much slower process when temps go below 40C. So look for all the mesophilic bacterias and fungus in this stage as well as actinomycetes bacteria. Actinomycetes are much like a fungus, but like all bacteria do not contain a nuclei. They have long filaments like fungi hyphea which will divide into spores when the conditions are ripe. They are very adapt at breaking down some organic compounds like chitin,...

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